Chinese space programm use the W.E.T. Sensor to help grow lettuce in space

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Source: Eijkelkamp Soil & Water

The multi-parameter W.E.T. Sensor is in use by Chinese astronauts aboard the Tiangong-2 Space Lab.

Tiangong-2, which translates into “Heavenly Palace”, was launched on the 15th of September 2016. This space station is designed to allow Chinese scientists to test life support technologies needed to create a permanently staffed Space Station.

Two Chinese astronauts (Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong) spent 30 days aboard the Space Lab carrying out numerous experiments, one of which was to cultivate lettuce plants within the weightless atmosphere.

The astronauts initiated the plant growing project on day two of their stay – setting up a culture system consisting of 3D-printed cultivation boxes filled with vermiculite. Unlike “earth-bound” growing techniques, the astronauts watered the vermiculite first, before inserting the seeds – they then covered the surface with plastic wrap.

Artificial lighting was provided for 14 hours a day to allow photosynthesis and air was injected into the roots of the plants.

The W.E.T. Sensor played a key role in the Space Lab experiment, providing frequent accurate data on substrate moisture, temperature and pore water conductivity (EC). This information allowed the astronauts to precisely assess growing conditions (including nutrient values) on a regular basis.

The experiment was a success – astronaut Jing Haipeng stating that, “On entering the Space Lab on the fifth morning, we found the seeds had germinated. We were happy, so we took a lot of photos and informed ground staff”.

The W.E.T. Sensor is used by thousands of growers around the world to help maintain optimal growing conditions. We were honored to find out that China’s space team had the confidence to use that instrumentation in such an important and exciting study.

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