Salad could be grown on Mars, say scientists after successfully sending seeds to space.
Researchers sent a million seeds to the International Space Station in 2015, in a mission supported by British astronaut Tim Peake. When it came back to Earth after half a year, six lakh children across the UK took part in an experiment to grow the seeds. The experiment was organised by the Royal Horticulture Society.
Scientists believe the findings take them a step closer to understanding whether edible crops can be grown during space missions.
The results of the study were published in the scientific journal Life. The study said that although the space flight did not compromise the seed viability and the development of the seedlings, the germination vigour was reduced.
According to a report in Independent, the study was led by Dr Jake Chandler of the Royal Holloway’s department of biological sciences in London. Chandler said that transporting high-quality seeds to space will be crucial for growing plants to support human exploration of Mars and space.
He added, “Our study found that a six month journey to space reduced the vigour of rocket seeds compared to those that stayed on Earth, indicating that spaceflight accelerated the ageing process.”
According to study authors, the seeds need to be protected from harmful effects of cosmic radiation and mechanical vibrations to maintain their quality.
As per a report in Daily Mail, factors that could potentially affect seeds in space also include microgravity, a lack of oxygen, low humidity and extreme temperature fluctuations.
Jason Hatton, head of biology and environmental monitoring at the European Space Agency (ESA), confirmed radiation was the most likely reason for the seeds growing less effectively.