Lada: The ISS Plant Substrate Microgravity Testbed 2002-01-2388
Lada, named for the ancient Russian Goddess of Spring, is a plant growth system developed jointly by the Space Dynamics Laboratory and the Institute of Biomedical Problems for long-term deployment on the International Space Station. Lada uses design features and technology similar to the Svet greenhouse on the Mir orbital outpost, and will be launched to ISS in June 02. It is scheduled to support its first crop (a leafy vegetable - Mizuna [Brassica rapa var. nipposinica]) in October 02. Lada consists of four major components (a control module, two vegetation modules and a water tank) and is designed to be deployed on a cabin wall. This deployment scheme was chosen to provide the crew therapeutic viewing and easy access to the plants. The two independently controlled vegetation modules allow comparisons between two vegetation or substrate treatments. The vegetation modules consist of three sub-modules, a light bank, the leaf chamber, and a root module. The root module is 9 cm deep, and can be instrumented to allow a wide range of substrate water and oxygen diffusion experiments to be conducted during the plant growth experiments. Sensors available in Lada are similar to those provided by the Svet-GEMS system. Specific attention has been paid to the root zone sensor suite, which includes substrate moisture probes, mini-tensiometers, and substrate oxygen sensors. Experiments conducted in Lada will be associated with the Russian National Science program and will follow three themes: substrate management physics, plant production and quality, and crew - plant interaction studies. A unique feature of the Lada concept is that when the system is not being used for supported science experiments, it will be available to crew members to supplement their diet and to enhance flight enjoyment. Plans are in place to train all of the Russian crew members to use Lada. International cooperative experiments exploiting these unique features are now being developed.