Researchers found that radishes, lettuce and wheat can be exposed to vacuum conditions for half an hour with no ill effects. We salute the brave souls who sacrificed themselves for science . . . and ate space radishes.

Space colonization has been a dream of humanity for many years. Despite Nasa budget cuts, a lost spacecraft or two, and evidence that it's going to be impossible to successfully boink in space, some hardy souls just keep preparing to make that dream a reality. That reality includes food that isn't freeze dried and shipped up from earth. Astro-settlers need something space-grown. Seeds can be germinated in space, but to grow they'd special pressurized greenhouses set up for them. If those greenhouses sprung a leak and depressurized, would an entire colony starve?

Vacuums tend to kill things pretty quickly. There are no gases to breathe, water boils away, and the lack of pressure itself does damage. Humans and most animals die quickly. Plants might do the same.


To check, Raymond Wheeler of the Kennedy Space Center grew radishes, lettuce and wheat for twenty days. Then, at only twenty days old, the seedlings were exposed to vacuum conditions. They were sealed in a chamber from which all the atmospheric gases were pumped. They stayed there for 30 minutes, before being returned to atmospheric conditions. The plants continued to grow as usual, and researchers could find no difference in health between them and a more kindly treated control group.

This points to the possibility of crops grown in space or on other planets. It also raises the tantalizing possibility of humans being able to survive in vacuums. If plants can do it, clearly we must slaughter and eat those plants, to gain their power. Oh, you don't think that works? How do you think I got a job working as a blogger? (Be as outraged as you like, but the job market is rough, and the last person to occupy this position was delicious.)

Via New Scientist.