Ground Control Plants Harvested for Study

Veg-03 ground control harvest in the SSPF at Kennedy Space Center.
Inside the ISS environmental simulator chamber room in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Matthew Romeyn, a NASA Pathways intern from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, harvests a portion of the ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce from the Veg-03 ground control unit. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

On Monday, Dec. 5, the first of four lettuce leaf harvests from the Veg-03 ground control took place at Kennedy Space Center as researchers implemented a technique called “cut-and-come-again.” The idea is to cut a few leaves from the ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce plants about every 10 days as the remaining leaves continue to grow. Unlike the harvest conducted aboard the station last Friday where the astronauts ate the fruits of their labor, the leaves cut at Kennedy were bagged, weighed and placed in a freezer for future use.

The purpose of the ground Veggie system is to provide a control group to compare against the lettuce grown in orbit. Some of the future harvests on the station will be saved for scientific comparison once the leaves are returned to the space center. Not only will they compare the yield grown in space versus that on Earth, but researchers also will conduct food safety analysis for the “cut-and-come-again” technique to monitor the microbial load on the plant leaves to see how it changes over time.