Fresh Lettuce in Space and Back Home

If you enjoy eating fresh, homegrown lettuce instead of purchased lettuce that has part of its fresh quality time in transport, it’s also a consideration at the International Space Station. Fresh lettuce is a premium in space.

Growing conditions at the space station that differ with Earth include reduced gravity, more radiation, added food safety concerns, and substrate to grow the lettuce.

NASA studies growing crops in space to provide fresh food to astronauts and space workers as space exploration becomes more far-reaching.


In control studies from May 2014 – December 2016, red romaine lettuce was grown at the International Space Station (ISS) to determine its viability and nutritive value under conditions there.


According to the study results, “leafy vegetable crops can produce safe, edible fresh food to supplement to the astronauts’ diet, and provide baseline data operation of the Veggie plant growth units on ISS.”

Lactuca sativa, an open-sourced outredeous seed was grown in plant chambers designed by ORBITEC in Madison, Wisconsin. The romaine was planted in veggie pillows of porous ceramic clay and monitored as it grew. The space studies were highlighted in the May/June issue of The American Gardener. The full article is available:

The same kind of commonly grown, open-source red romaine lettuce that is grown in the space station is also available to gardeners. One source of the seed is Johnnies Select Seeds.

Red romaine features that make it a long time favorite for fresh lettuce in spring include its 30-day maturity with fast, early growth in cool soil. It maintains color under low light intensity and grows best in the near-neutral pH range of 6.2 – 6.8 soil.

Some of the everyday practical discoveries come from space technology and exploration, and some originate on Earth! In both settings, plants are amazingly adaptive.

Thanks for visiting the Plant Exchange blog. We hope to see you next week!





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