Space-grown lettuce? Eat up:

“Fresh food grown in the microgravity environment of space officially is on the menu for the first time for NASA astronauts,” NASA said in a statement.

There was no word on whether crew members have been “unofficially” sneaking some space-grown snacks.

Yes, the astronauts get plenty of prepared foods shipped up by supply ships. But NASA needs to figure out how to grow food on spacecraft — and on other planets — for future deep space missions such as the one planned to Mars. The space agency plans to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s.

Besides, gardening is fun on Earth, and NASA said astronauts likely will use it as a recreational activity on long missions.

The lettuce was grown in the space station’s Veggie plant growth system. The system was tested at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the plants were checked for safety. Still, half the crew’s harvest will be sent back to Earth for more testing. And to be even safer, the astronauts will clean the lettuce with citric acid-based, food-safe sanitizing wipes before eating it.


That seems like an awful lot of work for lettuce, although at least it was red romaine and not the dreaded, flavorless iceberg lettuce. That stuff is the celery of lettuce — good for crunch and as a delivery system for things with actual flavor, but not for much else.

More seriously, this report dovetails into Neal Stephenson’s new hard sci-fi novel, Seveneves, which I just finished reading a few days ago.

In the near future — around 2030, I’m guessing — an unknown astronomical event shatters the Earth’s moon into seven pieces. Humanity has just two years to turn the International Space Station into an orbital ark before a five-thousand-year-long “hard rain” of Moon debris sets fire to the atmosphere and boils off the oceans.

Things get pretty exciting and the technical challenges are daunting. The hard sci-fi is fascinating even to a layman like myself, although the book is far from perfect.

One of the main characters in the book’s first two acts is so obviously Neil deGrasse Tyson and so over-the-top right and noble, that you have to wonder if Stephenson was merely lazy, or if he’s actually pushing Tyson’s Progressive science agenda. To Stephenson’s credit, his Elon Musk-inspired character is done much better, although maybe that’s because not-Musk spends most of his time in the background.


One gratuitous swipe at Republicans was, well, gratuitous, jarring, and out of place.

Stephenson however nails the politics, both on Earth and on the ark-ed up space station.

The third act, set on and above New Earth in the distant future, drags more than it should. But it does offer two very nice twists for the reader patient enough to get through it.

Recommended, with those caveats.


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