GREENBELT, Md., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- NASA engineers say they're working on a habitat to learn the effects on plants of long-duration microgravity exposure in space.
In possible future missions beyond low-Earth orbit, relying on plant growth aboard a spacecraft will play an important role, NASA said.
"The ability of plants to provide high quality science within a tightly closed system, a source of food and recycle carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen may prove crucial for astronauts and add to the body of knowledge as they live in space for months at a time," said Bryan Onate, Plant Habitat project manager, said.
For research purposes, NASA engineers are developing a plant habitat with a large growth chamber destined for a laboratory on the International Space Station.
"It will provide a large, enclosed, environmentally-controlled chamber designed to support commercial and fundamental plant research onboard the space station," Onate said.
The habitat is about 21 inches high, 36 inches wide and 24 inches deep and would use about 735 watts of power, he said.
The habitat is expected to launch to the ISS in 2015, probably aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.
"NASA is conducting plant research aboard the space station because during future long-duration missions, life in space may depend on it," Onate said.