Red Light Therapy in Space: NASA’s Secret Weapon




Space travel presents unique challenges to human health. The harsh conditions of outer space, including microgravity and high levels of radiation, can have detrimental effects on the human body. To counteract these effects, NASA has turned to an innovative solution: Red Light Therapy (RLT). This non-invasive treatment method has shown promising results in promoting wound healing, reducing inflammation, and even combating the effects of aging.

Understanding Red Light Therapy

Red Light Therapy, also known as photobiomodulation, involves exposing the body to low levels of red or near-infrared light. The light penetrates the skin and is absorbed by cells, stimulating energy production and promoting healing processes. This therapy has been used on Earth for various medical applications, including skin conditions, pain management, and recovery from injury. [Link to a reputable source on RLT]

NASA’s Adoption of Red Light Therapy

red light therapy for NASA

NASA’s interest in Red Light Therapy began with the need to promote wound healing and tissue growth in space. In the microgravity environment of space, the body’s natural healing processes are disrupted, leading to slower recovery times. NASA conducted extensive research into the effects of Red Light Therapy on cell health and found that it could significantly enhance the healing process. [Link to NASA’s research]

Red Light Therapy for Astronaut Health

The benefits of Red Light Therapy for astronauts extend beyond wound healing. The therapy has also been found to counteract muscle atrophy and bone density loss, common issues faced by astronauts during long space missions. Furthermore, RLT has potential benefits for mental health, as it has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

The Future of Red Light Therapy in Space

As we set our sights on longer space missions, including potential trips to Mars, the importance of maintaining astronaut health becomes even more critical. Red Light Therapy, with its wide range of health benefits and minimal side effects, is set to play a crucial role in future space travel. Ongoing research continues to uncover new applications for this versatile therapy, making it a true secret weapon for NASA. 

Red Light Therapy for Plant Growth in Space

In addition to its benefits for astronaut health, Red Light Therapy also has significant implications for plant growth in space. As we look towards long-duration space missions and the possibility of establishing human colonies on other planets, the ability to grow plants in space becomes crucial. Plants not only provide a sustainable food source but also contribute to air purification and psychological well-being.

NASA has been experimenting with different light spectra to optimize plant growth in space. Red light, in particular, has been found to be highly effective. Plants primarily absorb red and blue light for photosynthesis, the process by which they convert light energy into chemical energy for growth. However, red light, with its longer wavelength, is able to penetrate deeper into plant tissues and drive photosynthesis more efficiently.

In the controlled environment of a spacecraft or space station, Red Light Therapy can be used to provide the optimal light spectrum for plant growth. NASA has developed specialized LED lighting systems that deliver a precise combination of red, blue, and green light to maximize plant growth and nutritional value. These systems have been used successfully aboard the International Space Station to grow a variety of crops, including lettuce, radishes, and zinnias.

The use of Red Light Therapy for plant growth in space has exciting implications for the future of space travel. It brings us one step closer to the goal of creating self-sustaining habitats in space, where astronauts can grow their own food on long-duration missions or while living on other planets.

However, further research is needed to fine-tune the application of Red Light Therapy for different types of plants and growing conditions. As we continue to explore the final frontier, the red glow of LED lights may become a common sight on spacecraft, illuminating the path towards sustainable life in space.

Here are some related studies and articles about how NASA uses red light therapy:

This article discusses how red light technology has been proven to aid in the healing of human wounds, burns, diabetic skin ulcers, and oral mucositis.

The article explains how NASA stumbled into the world of medical light therapy. The LEDs were red and blue because these are the most efficient light wavelengths for driving photosynthesis. NASA scientists who spent time working with their hands under the lighting found that abrasions on their hands seemed to heal faster than normal.

The article mentions that NASA originally began experimenting with red light therapy on plant growth in space and then to help heal wounds in astronauts.

The article discusses the use of a device covered with glowing red lights in clinical trials.

red light therapy for NASA

This study assesses the effects of hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) and near-infrared light therapy on wound healing. The paper reviews and presents new data of LED treatment on cells grown in culture, on ischemic and diabetic wounds in rat models, and on acute and chronic wounds in humans.

NASA’s use of red light therapy in space has significant implications for us here on Earth. The technology was initially developed to promote growth in plants during space missions. However, it was soon discovered that red light therapy could also have profound effects on human cells.

Profound Effects of Red Light Therapy on Human Cells

Wound Healing and Tissue Regrowth

One of the most significant findings was that red light therapy could help accelerate wound healing and tissue regrowth. This discovery was particularly important for astronauts who, due to the unique conditions of space, can experience slower healing times. The red light therapy works by stimulating energy production in skin cells, which can speed up the healing process. This has been applied on Earth to help treat conditions like ulcers, serious burns, and other types of wounds.

Pain Relief

Another application of red light therapy is in pain relief. Studies have found that the therapy can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. This has been used to help manage chronic pain conditions, as well as to treat the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment in cancer patients.

Skin Health

Red light therapy has also been found to improve skin health. It can help stimulate collagen production, reduce wrinkles, and improve the overall appearance of the skin. This has led to the use of red light therapy in aesthetic treatments and skincare.

Mental Health

There’s also research being conducted into the effects of red light therapy on mental health. Some studies suggest that it may help treat conditions like depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Plant Growth

The original purpose of the technology, to stimulate plant growth, has also been applied on Earth. It’s used in horticulture to improve plant growth in conditions where natural light may be lacking.

In conclusion, NASA’s use of red light therapy in space has led to a variety of applications on Earth, from medical treatments to skincare, and even agriculture. The technology continues to be a subject of research, and it’s likely that more uses will be discovered in the future.


Red Light Therapy is a revolutionary treatment method that holds great promise for the future of space travel. From promoting wound healing to combating the mental health challenges of long space missions, this therapy is proving to be an invaluable tool in NASA’s arsenal. As we continue to push the boundaries of human space exploration, Red Light Therapy will undoubtedly be at the forefront of astronaut health and wellness.