The Scientific Reason a NASA Habitat Looks like a Discotheque


Life in space doesn’t have to resemble the cold, quiet, Kubrickian setting of 2001: A Space Odyssey. There’s no reason to think it can’t look more like a futuristic night club, where space travelers can bust a move. And that’s more-or-less what a new space habitat built by NASA looks like.

Meet the “Advanced Plant Habitat Flight Unit No. 1,” a prototype facility to test out plant production. Since July 27, the APH at Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been running through preparatory testing to get things ready for the Plant Habitat 01 Mission (PH-01), in which astronauts aboard the International Space Station will grow Arabidopsis seeds (small flowering plants related to species of cabbage and mustard).

The Advanced Plant Habitat as it appears at Kennedy Space Center


Why all the colors of the rainbow? The red, blue, green and broad-spectrum white LED lights are all there to help the plants grow with maximum efficiency.

See, in anticipation for human beings spending more of their lives in outer space, NASA’s been looking into establishing ways to grow food within space habitats. The agency has seen a lot of luck growing lettuce and zinnias. The APH, a newer space agriculture system, should be able to facilitate the growth of newer crops.

Another APH has already been sent to the ISS, in two different shipments. When it’s been finally set up, it will work as a closed-loop, environmentally-controlled habitation chamber, complete with the rainbow disco lights you see above. PH-01 will start sometime in October — unfortunately without the disco music that would seem oh so appropriate.