The Veggie 'plant pillows' taken to the ISS during last week's supply mission will allow astronauts to grow the plants in space before the end of the year.

This will be the first time NASA astronauts have tasted something grown in orbit, 'The Observer' reported.

Until now, all supplies to the ISS have been taken from Earth.

"If you can get the environmental conditions correct, there's no reason why plants won't grow pretty well in space," Dr Gioia Massa, a payload specialist at the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, said.

Massa's deployable vegetable production system (Veggie for short), now on board the ISS, is a pop-up greenhouse that collapses to the size of a briefcase for stowage during launch.

The main obstacle to growing plants in space is the lack of gravity, since the soil tends to float away.

Massa's solution has been to design the equivalent of something familiar to all tomato wranglers: a grow bag. NASA describes these as "plant pillows".

Three plant pillows have been delivered to the ISS and will be sown in succession, the report said.

While two of the pillows hold seeds for a variety of red romaine lettuce called Outredgeous, the third contains the flowering plant zinnia, to add a splash of colour to the space station.

(Agencies)

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