Oasis Series Growth Chambers

Oasis 1 as exhibited in the Memorial Museum of Astronautics in Moscow 11 .  | Download Scientific Diagram

The Soviet Oasis series marked the first biological life support flight experiments, flying from 1971 to 1986. These Oasis chambers were beneficial to astronauts’ mental health, with British astronaut Mike Foale commenting on how encouraging it was to see his seedlings sprout. One cosmonaut even placed his sleeping bag next to an Oasis, so he could check plant growth as soon as he awoke. Cosmonaut Yuri Artyukhin described how the Oasis was the brightest place on the station, so crew members spent considerable time near it. There were four iterations of Oasis, listed below.

Oasis 1 ran on Salyut 1, and grew the first plants in space: flax, leek, onion, and chinese cabbage. Oasis 1 had watering issues, as the fabric ion-exchange root substrate was sensitive to overwatering, especially since water behaves differently in space. It had a relatively dim lighting system that provided 9 to 21 W/m2.

Oasis 1M was flown on Salut 4, and it had an improved water metering system and a new nutrient delivery system. The pea experiments were unsuccessful, and the cosmonauts speculated that the lights burned the plants to death. The Oasis 1M successfully grew onions to 20 cm tall, and these onions were the first space-grown plants ever eaten (1975). Oasis 1M had the same lighting system as Oasis 1, providing 9 to 10 W/m2.

Oasis 1AM (occasionally called Oasis 3) was flown on Salyut 6, and it had a modified watering system, slightly altered “vegetative vessels”, and a modularized lighting system for easier maintenance. It was purportedly designed for long duration missions. Oasis 1AM had a slightly improved lighting system that provided 15 to 20 W/m2.

Oasis 1A ran on Salyut 7, and provided better aeration to the root zone, better ventilation, and other modifications. It had an even higher-capacity lighting system that provided 30 to 40 W/m2.

References:

  • Review and analysis of plant growth chambers and greenhouse modules for space (link)
  • NSSDCA Salyut 7 (link)
  • Review and analysis of over 40 years of space plant growth systems (link)
  • Instrumentation for plant health and growth in space (link)
  • Greenhouses and their humanizing synergies (link)
  • Architecture for Astronauts: an Activity-based Approach (link)
  • Waystation to the Stars – The Story of Mir, Michael and Me
  • Lighting Equipment for Manned Spacecraft (link)