For the first time, the global Space Station (ISS) is set to sample fresh red romaine lettuce grown in the microgravity environment of their orbiting laboratory.
“The Veggie experiment is now the only experiment we are supporting which involves evaluating the effects of plant life on humans in space“, Alexandra Whitmire, behavioural health and performance research scientist for NASA’s Human Research Program, said.
After clicking their lettuce leaves like wine glasses, three astronauts tasted them with a bit of Italian balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil.
NASA posted a YouTube video today that shows Expedition 44 astronauts Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren, and Kimiya Yui toasting some of their crop of lettuce before eating it and saying, “That’s awesome”.
The first set of harvested greens were sent back to Earth in October of last year for safety analysis.
The collapsible and expandable Veggie unit features a flat panel light bank that includes red, blue and green LEDs for plant growth and crew observation. It was the first time people have eaten food cultivated in space. The produce is the result of a new effort to grow food in space for potential, long-term space missions.
Researchers activated rooting “pillows”, which contain the plant seeds, in July and harvested the lettuce after 33 days.
“But the quantity is limited and must be consumed quickly”. Kelly, at least, enjoyed the experience, saying, “It tastes good”. It is a significant step toward the future of space exploration because it’s a critical part of NASA’s Journey to Mars and also could be enable astronauts to garden recreationally during deep space missions. They’re using the technology being tested in space on the ground, as well, in places like Dubai, which has to import 95 percent of its food because of inhospitable growing conditions. The green LEDs aren’t actually necessary to the process – and the food would grow better without them – but helps make the food look a familiar colour.