Astronauts Try Lettuce Grown in Space

October 7, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. astronaut / ˈæs trəˌnɔt / (n.) – a person trained to go to outer space
Example: Neil Armstrong is the first astronaut to walk on the moon.

2. spacecraft / ˈspeɪsˌkræft / (n.) – a vehicle that can travel to and stay in outer space
Example: Three astronauts are in the spacecraft.

3. mist / mɪst / (n.) – very small drops of water or any liquid that is usually sprayed
Example: My favorite body mist scent is vanilla.

4. fertilizer / ˈfɜr tlˌaɪ zər / (n.) – a substance that makes soil healthier so plants can grow properly
Example: We use organic fertilizers in our garden.

5. distract / dɪˈstrækt / (v.) – to shift one’s attention from one thing to another
Example: I need something to distract me so I won’t get stressed with work.


Read the text below.
In August, astronauts from the National Aeronautics [air-uh-NAW-tiks] and Space Administration (NASA) had their first taste of the lettuce they grew in space.

The project, called Veg-01, started on July 8. NASA started the experiment of growing food in a spacecraft in preparation for future long-term space missions. Growing food inside a spacecraft will also be useful when NASA finally brings people to Mars in the 2030s.

The astronauts were able to grow lettuce through aeroponics [air-uh-PON-iks]—a technique wherein a plant’s roots hang in the air instead of being planted in soil. The plant was nurtured by mists composed of a nutrient solution. The lettuce was also able to properly grow with the help of three different colors of LED lights—red, blue, and green. Plants that are grown using this technique also do not need much water and fertilizer. The speed of the plants’ growth also increases threefold using this technique.

To get the plants tested, the astronauts will send half of the lettuce back to Earth. To keep them fresh throughout the journey, the lettuce will be frozen.

While the astronauts regularly get food supplies, growing plants in space will help them survive when they go farther from Earth. A NASA spokesperson mentioned that delivering food supplies is getting more difficult when space missions are farther from Earth. Should astronauts learn to grow more vegetables inside their spacecraft, they would have enough food even when they go farther in space.

Aside from providing food, planting in space may also provide astronauts something that can distract them from their usual work-related routines.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Would you be willing to try lettuce grown in space? Why or why not?
·         What other plants do you think should the astronauts learn to grow in space?

Discussion B

·         If you could go to outer space, which planet would you want to visit? Please discuss your answer.
·         What are the possible dangers of going to outer space?

October 7, 2015