NASA astronauts harvested the first peppers aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on October 29, marking an important milestone in the process of humans sending a new life form into space.
Hatch pepper seeds arrived at the ISS space station during a SpaceX resupply mission in June and were planted by NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough.
“Finally, I made my best space tacos: Beef fajita, rehydrated tomatoes and artichokes with Hatch peppers,” astronaut Megan McArthur wrote on Twitter.
Astronauts have a variety of frozen and prepackaged foods provided while living in the International Space Station. However, learning how to grow fresh foods millions of kilometers from Earth will be key to longer-term space missions. “The challenge is being able to feed crews in low Earth orbit and then have explorers sustain on future missions beyond low Earth orbit to destinations including the Sun. moon, as part of the Artemis program and eventually to Mars,” said Matt Romeyn, principal investigator for NASA’s Plant Habitat-04 experiment.
According to Romeyn, growing plants like chili peppers can not only have physical health benefits, but also mental health benefits for astronauts.
NASA astronauts planted Hatch seeds in the Advanced Plant Habitat – a growth chamber equipped with more than 180 sensors and LEDs controlled by a crew at Kennedy Space Center.
A similar growth chamber called the Vegetable Production System has been growing vegetables for about 6 years, including lettuce, cabbage, kale and zinnia. A team at the Kennedy Space Center grew a control group of peppers under nearly identical conditions on Earth to see if microgravity and other factors in the universe influenced growth. of Hatch peppers or not.
“The growing environment determines the spiciness of chili peppers. The combination of microgravity, light quality, root zone temperature and humidity all affect flavor. So it’s going to be interesting to see how the fruit develops, ripens, and tastes,” said NASA PH-04 project scientist LaShelle Spencer.