Now hold on a second. How could food possibly be more important than air or water? Well, I’ll tell you. We already have machines to purify our air and recycle our water. They keep the crew on board the International Space Station alive and well every day. But no machine can produce a crispy piece of lettuce or a nice strawberry. A little bit of home to make the journey seem less distant. And from a more pragmatic aspect, everything you grow is less you have to bring with you, and the less resupply flights you have to send. This creates self-sufficiency, lowers the cost, and makes the politicians happy. If we are to survive as a species, we’ll need to be able to live off the land – land currently being subjected to the harsh realities of space. So we’ll cover it over and make a little Earth out of it.
The greenhouse here is less technical, but it does have a supply of fresh food planted by earlier crews. We've got a supply of lettuce, radish, carrots, peas, and beans. It hasn't been eaten yet, but it’ll provide the perfect pick-me-up halfway through our mission. Also it will taste good.
On board the Space Station the astronauts like to spend their precious free time in the Cupola, a six sided, seven windowed dome overlooking the Earth. The view must be spectacular – one day I hope to see it for myself. I've always understood why they like it. Who wouldn't? But now I really have a better appreciation for it. The Cupola lets you go outside without being outside.
A greenhouse on the Moon or Mars would function in much the same way and let you get some sun without asphyxiating. It’s the little things in life. I can image standing at the window, plants all round me, water running, fresh air, looking out over a gray landscape with our sun blazing white against the black sky. There are no plants out there, unless you look up at the blue and green sphere floating silently above. That’s home, that’s where we came from and we brought a little piece of it with us.
What a dichotomy huh? Water, air, life on one side, vacuum, rocks and radiation on the other. But that’s just it. We tend to think of space as being “out there” and somehow removed from everything around us. But those rocks, radiation, and vacuum are the reality of the situation. Earth is the greenhouse in the middle of a hostile desert – but what a desert it is. All we have to do is bring the plants.
Executive Officer / Acting Commander, and Acting Engineer
(Kavya's back in Houston now, surrounded by the green)