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Why a commercial space greenhouse is part of NASA’s Artemis program

A commercial greenhouse will launch into space next spring in what is being heralded as a crucial step for NASA’s Artemis Program and eventual lunar colony. The Artemis Program is widely viewed as the first step necessary to help humans become multi-planetary.

NASA’s Artemis I Mission is currently scheduled to launch on Aug. 29. This first launch is an uncrewed test to evaluate the safety of the rocket and Orion spacecraft, which will eventually transport astronauts to the lunar surface. The rocket will send Orion into orbit around the moon, where it will remain for six days before returning to Earth, hopefully unscathed.

NASA plans to launch a series of crewed lunar missions that will culminate in the creation of a long-term lunar base, which scientists tout as a necessary step before a similar human habitat can be built on Mars. But before Artemis can establish astronauts on the moon’s surface for any significant length of time, they’ll need to secure a means of producing food there, as transporting enough would quickly become prohibitively expensive.

In a significant step toward solving this problem, Redwire Corporation announced this week that it is developing the first commercial greenhouse designed to grow crops from seed to maturity in non-Earth environments. While astronauts aboard the space station have a small space garden, known as Veggie, it can only grow six plants at a time and is designed to help scientists better understand whether plants can grow in-orbit rather than to be a major food source for the residents of the ISS. In contrast, the Redwire Greenhouse is focused on realizing human capacity to produce crops off Earth and to feed astronauts on deep space missions. Dave Reed, Redwire Florida Launch Site Operations Director and Greenhouse project manager, says that “growing full crops in space will be critical to future space exploration missions as plants provide food, oxygen, and water reclamation. Increasing the throughput of crop production research in space, through commercially developed capabilities, will be important to deliver critical insights for NASA’s Artemis missions and beyond.” 

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