With the renewed goal of crewed Mars exploration, continuous fresh food production during long-term deep space missions may be a critical addition to the processed food system to meet astronauts’ nutritional requirements and to provide a psychological countermeasure for crew in the isolation and confinement of deep space. However, critical knowledge gaps, such as the impact of deep space radiation on plant crops, must be addressed prior to dependence on crop systems for any portion of a deep space food system. Although the biological impact of simulated space radiation on mammalian cells and rodents has been investigated extensively, the effects of long-term exposure to deep space radiation on crop seeds and plant growth has yet to be characterized. We must investigate the impact of deep space radiation on crop foods to either confirm that nutritious and high quality produce can be reliably grown in deep space or to provide a baseline to guide future radiation countermeasure development for crop foods.
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We propose to investigate the effect of simulated Solar Particle Events (SPEs) and Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs) on several model crops at different growing stages using the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) at Brookhaven National Lab (BNL). The selected crops have been grown successfully under spaceflight-like conditions (temperature, air, humidity, lighting, etc.) in ground analogs, and either have been or will be grown on International Space Station (ISS) for crew consumption. The additional knowledge of the response of each crop to deep space radiation will help identify candidate traits for successful growth on deep space vehicles. The effect of the simulated space radiation environment on crop seeds viability, seedling development, and the impact on nutritional value of fresh produce will be determined.
Results are pending and will be updated when the data becomes available.