Watering Plants in Space

NASA, Techshot Inc. and the Tupperware Brands Corporation is working together to get a more effective plant watering solution right. A new model was sent on CRS-20

Currently, the method of watering plants on the International Space Station is using a syringe. The water is pushed into containers called plant pillows. This process is good for leafy greens like lettuce. However, for larger plants NASA will need an alternative method.

3 stages of ponds leading up to CRS20
3 stages of POND, Furthest right is being experimented on currently on the ISS | photo: Crystal Gabriel

The introduction of PONDS (Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System) in 2018 has been redesigned and had corrected operational modifications twice. This is it’s 3rd time going up with 12 units ready for testing. Think of it like Goldilocks. The 1st attempt was too much water being distributed, the 2nd time was too little water. So, 3rd times a charm… right? Well the demonstration units flew up on CRS-20 and is titled VEG-PONDS-03.

These units are completely passive, meaning they require no electricity, no pumps and no moving parts. The basic concept involves a free-standing reservoir of water that plants can draw from. Therefore, cutting down on astronauts time of watering plants. The reservoir holds 400ml of water, allowing the astronauts to go a week or more without having to refill the reservoir.

The men behind the PONDS waterfall TechShot and Tupperware
Techshot and Tupperware ‘s PONDS (left to right) Howard Levine, David Kusuma, Dave Reed | photo: Crystal Gabriel

All 12 units have red romaine lettuce seeds and grow for 28 days. All inside the space station’s two Veggie growth chambers. At harvest, crew members will have the opportunity to eat the lettuce they grew.

It will be interesting to know what comes of this experiment. The data that comes from this will be one step closer to human sustainability in space.

Jon Van Horne
Jon Van Horne

He began his career in media as a multimedia designer and developer in Montreal, Quebec. He developed a passion for media during his job in Photography and Video at a Montreal media content company. Other passions in media, photography/videography and soon going back to school in engineering.