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The Russian greenhouse on ISS underwent an upgrade today.
The onboard greenhouse was dismantled in April last year, as a need arose to replace the outdated control unit, recalled head of the Rasteniya-2 (Plants-2) experiment, chief of the laboratory of the Institute of Medico-Biological Problems (IMBP) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Vladimir Sychev. In early 2010, the crop area of the orbital garden was extended twice – the second leaf chamber was delivered to the ISS in which the crew managed to harvest the Mizuna lettuce, before the greenhouse was dismantled. Now, the cosmonauts will plant in these two chambers different cultures – super-dwarf wheat and dwarf tomatoes.
As I described in detail in Leaving Earth, the Russians have decades of experience in growing plants in space, with the goal of not only providing a natural system to recycle the station’s atmosphere, but also giving the astronauts a morale-boosting activity (gardening) that also gives them something tasty to eat. Though the engineering has still not made it possible to germinate seeds in weightlessness and then have grow there, this will be an absolute requirement if humans are ever to travel to the planets and beyond to the stars.