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Has there ever been an experiment were a plant was brought on board? I would think that if a plant was able to go through normal cycles of photosynthesis, it would be helpful to bring a plant on board to create oxygen.

If this is a foreign idea, why hasn't it been explored yet?

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    $\begingroup$ I suppose you specifically mean for human spaceflight, so I've added manned-flight. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Jul 17 '13 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ Plants require 1. soil, 2. water, which are heavy. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jul 17 '13 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ SF - no soil required. See hydroponics. Water is relatively easy. $\endgroup$ – Rory Alsop Jul 17 '13 at 22:23
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    $\begingroup$ @RoryAlsop even better yet, check out Aeroponics! $\endgroup$ – JohnB Jul 17 '13 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ Here's some NASA videos: Space Station: Gardening in space , Space Station: How do roots grow in space $\endgroup$ – nos Apr 27 '14 at 13:31
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It depends on your definition of exploration missions.

Talking about human space flight into low Earth orbit, yes, there have been plenty of plants and successful experiments involving growing plants in space. Some are still going on on-board the ISS. Astronauts also, intentionally or unintentionally, let stuff grow which is actually part of their food supply (fruits etc.) sometimes. However, plants have never been used in a "self-sustaining" way over multiple generations for e.g. generating oxygen. Although, literature on past experiments with plants in space comes to the conclusion that this is possible.

If exploration means out of Earth orbit, there are only very few occasions where plants have been carried. The Soviet circumlunar Zond missions carried, besides lots of different animals, also plants.

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