No cucumbers for astronauts

Moscow - Mission controllers have forbidden Russian and Japanese astronauts from eating vegetables they plan to grow in space during a six-month trip around the Earth.

"On board the Japanese module we plan to conduct an experiment on growing cucumbers," said Japan's Satoshi Furukawa, a flight engineer for an upcoming mission to the International Space Station.

"We would like to eat them, but we are not allowed," the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying on Monday.

Mission commander Sergei Volkov was more optimistic about the chances that ground control might allow him and his colleagues to introduce a change to the strict diet of pre-packaged, freeze-dried foods normally consumed by astronauts.

"In the Russian module we are going to grow the tomatoes, and we also aren't allowed to eat them," the cosmonaut said at a press conference. "But maybe they will let us make a cucumber-tomato salad."

The vegetable-growing experiment will test how the absence of gravity affects the growth of earthly life.

A recent International Space Station experiment found that common house flies reproduce normally in a non-gravity environment, although they then have to learn to fly once they return to Earth.

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