Tupperware patents device used to grow vegetables in space

(Photo: Anna Nguyen via Tupperware)

WASHINGTON (SBG) – Here's something to make your head spin on its axis.

Tupperware -- yes, the company behind those infamous red plastic containers you keep leftovers in -- has secured a patent on an agricultural device known as "PONDS" (Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System) that's used to grow vegetables in space.

In 2015, a team at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida started developing the device so future astronauts could grow more complex plants that, in turn, required less watering and maintenance.

A prototype needed to answer a unique question: how do you successfully water plants without gravity? Tupperware, which joined the project in 2017, says it used "capillary action" to achieve this goal.

"The function requires astronauts to insert a small water-filled syringe into the base of the system and then a combination of wettable materials, capillary action, and interior geometry manage and distribute water to the seedling while establishing roots in nutrient-enhanced claylike material," the press release says.

PONDS, developed in partnership with in-space research company Techshot, is designed with special water storage capabilities to ensure water flows to the plants without vents getting in the way during tank filling.

The device has been launched three times into space so far. Tupperware and NASA say they're planning a fourth trip in 2021.