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Amentum Team Helps Grow Space Peppers!

JAson Fischer and Lashelle Spencer NASA

Congrats to LaShelle Spencer, Jacob Torres, Oscar Monje, and Jeff Richards on Amentum’s LASSO program at the Kennedy Space Center in Fla., who provided extensive support – both ground and flight testing – to the experimental plant habitat technology demonstration that allowed chile peppers to grow aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Plant Habitat-04 is one of the most complex plant experiments on the orbiting laboratory to date because peppers take much longer to grow than previous experiments like lettuce or radishes.

“Our support started three years ago,” said Debbie Wells, LASSO Deputy Program Manager. “We began with cultivar screening, where more than a dozen peppers were selected and grown in space cabin relative conditions, and we evaluated by plant viability, production, and flavor.”

Of the peppers grown, the Española Improved pepper was selected and tested in Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) analog science carriers to determine optimum fertilizer, lighting spectrum, and environmental conditions. Testing continued in the APH Engineering Demonstration Unit. Plant compatibility with the hardware was assessed, and crew procedures and moisture requirements were determined.

“The team then completed the ensuing paperwork necessary to document the preparation and ensure the quality of the fertilizer, seeds, and media used for flight,” added Debbie. “Once the technology was initiated aboard the ISS, the team continued its support through weekly science meetings and hardware support to our NASA customer and other teammates.”

On the Laboratory Support Services and Operations (LASSO) program, Amentum provides services in program management, laboratory maintenance and support, operational laboratory services, and professional and technical support for scientific research, engineering, test, and evaluation in laboratory environments in support of multiple customers and projects at the Kennedy Space Center.

JAson Fischer and Lashelle Spencer NASA
Photo by NASA. Jason Fischer (left), a research scientist, and Lashelle Spencer, a plant scientist, with the Laboratory Support Services and Operations contract at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, harvest peppers from pepper plants on Jan. 15, 2020, that were grown in the Space Station Processing Facility for a growth assessment test in preparation for sending them to space. As NASA prepares to send humans beyond low-Earth orbit, the ability for astronauts to grow a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in space will be critical. Fresh produce will be an essential supplement to the crew’s pre-packaged diet during long-duration space exploration when they are away from Earth for extended periods of time.

 

Megan McArthur  NASA
Photo by NASA. NASA astronaut and Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Megan McArthur cleans up debris in the International Space Station’s Plant Habitat, which is growing Hatch Green chiles for the Plant Habitat-04 space crop experiment.

 

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