FLORIDA — SpaceX will attempt to refuel the International Space Station again this weekend after bad weather at the launch site forced the company to abandon its first attempt, CNN reported.
The mission is scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:20 p.m. ET Saturday. If the weather were to wreck those plans again, a backup launch window is set for 1:58 p.m. ET on Sunday. The original take-off date was Tuesday.
The abundance of supplies on board include a pair of new solar panels for the space station, dwarf tomato seeds and a range of science experiments. There will also be treats for astronauts on the space station, like ice cream and Thanksgiving dishes like spicy green beans, cranberry desserts, pumpkin pie and candy corn.
The solar panels will be installed outside the floating lab during the spacewalks scheduled for November 29 and December 3. They will give a boost to the space station.
SpaceX has launched more than two dozen resupply missions to the space station over the past decade as part of a multi-billion dollar deal with NASA. The launch comes amid SpaceX’s busiest year yet, with more than 50 operations to date, including two astronaut missions.
The onboard cargo includes a number of health-related items, such as the Moon Microscope Kit. The portable microscope will allow astronauts to collect and send images of blood samples to air surgeons on the ground for diagnosis and treatment.
Tomatoes in space
Nutrients are a key part of maintaining good health in space. But fresh produce is in short supply on the space station compared to the prepackaged meals astronauts eat during their six-month stays in low Earth orbit.
“It’s pretty important to our exploration goals at NASA to be able to support the crew not only in nutrition, but also to consider various types of plants as sources of nutrients that we would struggle to sustain during long journeys between far-flung destinations like Mars and so on,” said Kirt Costello, NASA’s International Space Station program chief scientist and deputy director of the ISS Research Integration Office. .
Astronauts grew and tasted different types of lettuce, radishes and peppers on the International Space Station. Now, crew members can add Dwarf Tomatoes – specifically Red Robin Tomatoes – to their list of space-grown salad ingredients.
The experiment is part of an effort to provide continuous production of fresh food in space.
Dwarf tomato seeds will be grown under two different light treatments to measure the impact on the number of tomatoes that can be harvested as well as the nutritional value and taste of the plants. Red Robin tomatoes will also be grown on Earth as part of a control experiment. The two crops will be compared to measure the effects of a weightless environment on tomato growth.
Space tomatoes will be grown in small bags called vegetable pillows installed in the vegetable production system, known as the vegetable growth chamber, on the space station. Astronauts frequently water and care for plants.
“Tomatoes will be a new adventure for us on the veg team, trying to figure out how to keep these thirsty plants well watered without overwatering,” said Gioia Massa, NASA Space Crop Production Scientist and Principal Investigator for the tomato study.
The tomatoes will be ready for their first taste test in the spring.
The team expects tomato harvests 90, 97 and 104 days after the plants start growing. During taste tests, the crew will evaluate the flavor, aroma, juiciness and texture of the tomatoes grown using the different light treatments. Half of each tomato harvest will be frozen and sent back to Earth for analysis.
Growing plants on the space station not only provides the opportunity for fresh eating and creative taco nights, but can also lift the mood of the crew during their long spaceflight.
Surveys will track astronauts’ moods as they care for and interact with plants to see how seedling tending improves the crew’s experience in space station isolation.
Material is still in development for larger crop production on the space station and possibly other planets, but scientists are already planning which plants might grow better on the moon and Mars. Earlier this year, a team successfully grew plants in lunar soil that included samples collected during the Apollo missions.
“Tomatoes are going to be a great crop for the moon,” Massa said. “They’re very nutritious, very delicious, and we think astronauts will be really excited to grow them there.”
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