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Legume Experiments Conducted to Identify Best Source of Key Nutrients for Astronaut Diets

Status Report From: NASA Space Life and Physical Sciences
Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2021

 


Thiamine is a nutrient found to degrade to inadequate levels in the stored crew diet on long-duration space missions.  Legumes are one of the few pick-and-eat crops that are a significant source of thiamine (Vitamin B1). As part of the BPS Space Biology New Crop Testing project, the KSC Space Crop Production team is screening legume cultivars to identify those best suited for integration into future spaceflight investigations and the crew diet. This project is tasked with screening and down-selecting cultivars of crops propagated at simulated ISS environmental conditions for future inclusion in spaceflight investigations and the crew diet.  

Peas have been the focus of the first two screening trials this year, which have included a variety of commercially available and proprietary cultivars suggested by pea breeders.  Twelve different cultivars of legume crops were harvested at 56 days after planting in April 2021. Three cultivars produced little or no fruit, most likely related to the temperature being in the upper range of tolerance of pea plants.  Two early standout cultivars for use in spaceflight are “4921 Snap” snap pea and “Antigua” snap pea.  Both of these cultivars are relatively compact and produced acceptable yields of peas. 

A second pea harvest will be conducted in early May 2021 and a second screening trial of twelve new cultivars will be planted in late May 2021.  A down-selection of the top performing cultivars from both screening trials will be conducted in late summer 2021.  Edible tissue from these crops will be sent out for organoleptic and nutritional analysis.

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