Astronauts celebrate with “space tacos” made with the first peppers grown on the ISS

The astronauts of the International Space Station (ISS). organizes such a party on Friday to celebrate the harvest of the first chili peppers that were actually grown in space.

After launching the space station plant experiment in July, the crew finally had the pleasure of having a space taco garnished with chili peppers on the menu.

And it’s safe to say that outer space has become a little tastier.

Spicy space mission

The peppers are part of a NASA experiment called Plant Habitat-04, which aims to determine what foods can be grown in space. As early as June, forty-eight seeds were released into a carrier on a supply flight to the space station, and the carrier was placed in the laboratory’s Advanced Plant Habitat, which is the size of a microwave oven, to begin the project. However, while previous experiments have been successful in growing lettuce, radishes and flowering zinnias, peppers have been the most difficult so far, as they take much longer to grow, germinate and bear fruit than others.

After a four-month wait, the astronauts finally managed to taste the fruits of their labor before collecting data on the red and green peppers that were collected. NASA astronaut Megan MacArthur tweeted Friday that the crew tasted the peppers and used them in a tacos along with fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes and artichokes. “Friday holiday!” she wrote on Twitter, sharing photos of what she calls her “best space tacos ever.”

Feeding astronauts is not an easy task

The chili pepper experiment is part of a larger effort to increase the number of crops astronauts can grow in space during future missions, as feeding astronauts to the moon, and especially to distant destinations like Mars, will be a huge logistical challenge. with higher payload requiring more fuel and longer delivery times. In addition, the storage of packaged goods for a long period of time degrades the quality of food, reducing the amount of essential nutrients such as vitamin C and vitamin K.

With experiments like these, NASA can help identify possible food sources for long missions and learn more about the interactions between plants and microbes in space.

But why peppers? Well, the modest pepper was chosen because it contains several essential nutrients, is rich in vitamin C and gives a delicious variety to the crew’s menus, is stated in a NASA statement.

Chilean pepper plants. Source: NASA / Megan MacArthur

As a result of living in zero gravity, astronauts tend to lose some of their sense of taste and smell, which is why spicy or well-seasoned foods are especially popular among them. Adding fresh vegetables or peppers to the menu allows astronauts to spice up your daily meals while improving their overall health.

Chilean pepper plants will continue to grow aboard the ISS, and spaceX Crew-3 astronauts, due to fly from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida this month, will take a second harvest once they arrive. On the other hand, some of the peppers will be returned to Earth for research, and scientists will study the effects of microgravity on plants and peppers.

“The combination of microgravity, light quality, temperature and moisture in the root zone will affect the taste, so it will be interesting to see how the fruit will grow, ripen and taste,” said LaSchel Spencer, project research team leader. in a statement. “This is important because the food that astronauts eat must be as good as the rest of their equipment. To successfully send humans to Mars and bring them back to Earth, we will need not only the most nutritious foods, but also the most delicious. good. “

It seems that astronauts will be able to eat fresh chili peppers on future trips to other planets as a spicy memory of our pale blue dot.

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