NASA shows off the tiny gardens and plant experiments on the ISS

NASA has shared the latest images of small 'gardens' growing on the International Space Station, some of which have produced foods consumed by the astronauts. Multiple plant experiments have taken place on the ISS over recent years, including two milestone experiments that took place in January.

The SpaceX Crew-1 mission carrying NASA astronauts, including Mike Hopkins, arrived at the International Space Station in November 2020. According to NASA, Hopkins has been tending to the space station's plant experiments since then, including harvesting crops grown in space.

Back on January 4, NASA explains that Hopkins performed two experiments involving the plants: VEG-03I and VEG-O3J. The first experiment marked the first time plants were successfully transplanted in space, while the second experiment revolved around the Kennedy Space Center's seed film for planting seeds in orbit.

The lettuce grown from seed film, as well as the transplanted crops, were both harvested on February 2, according to NASA. Following that, Hopkins kicked off new experiments named VEG-03K and VEG-03L, one involving a new 'space crop' referred to by Kennedy Space Center as a 'steak plant' due to its flavor. The other experiment involved growing a crop called Extra Dwarf pak choi.

In addition to providing astronauts with a familiar connection with Earth life, growing crops in space will also enable humans on long space trips to acquire and consume fresh vegetables, addressing issues related to potential future manned missions. These are the latest of many plant-based ISS experiments, some of which have produced leaves and veggies the astronauts could eat.