CHOOSING CROPS FOR CULTIVATION IN SPACE
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Future space missions require bio-regenerative life-support systems. Eating fresh food is not only a fundamental requirement for survival but also influences the psychological well-being of astronauts operating on long duration space missions. Therefore the selection of plants to be grown in space is an important issue. Part of the EDEN ISS project entails the development and application of a methodology to select suitable plants for cultivation on-board the ISS and at its “stand-in” (for this project), the Neumayer III Antarctic station. A methodology was developed taking physical and physiological constraints, and human well-being (quality) aspects into account. It includes a framework for the selection process, a list of relevant criteria based on plant characteristics, engineering constraints and human nutrition and psychology. It entails a scoring system to assess and weigh these criteria for each crop, in order to rank the chosen crops. Human quality aspects, such as taste, texture and appearance were related to the well-being of astronauts. Yield aspects combined crop yield and efficiency in time and space, while production aspects concentrated on physical constraints of the planned growth modules and the technical aspects of cultivation. The methodological framework used for the selection of plants was based on several approaches. Physical and physiological constraints determine whether or not the crop can be cultivated in space (and/or in Antarctica) and all other parameters are prioritized according to human quality aspects, yield or production aspects that were ranked according to pre-selected weighing factors. This yielded a ranking of the crops to be grown in a controlled ecological life support system. A description of the methodology and its results with a choice of crops related to the aims of the EDEN project are given and will be discussed.