Kelly, at least, enjoyed the experience, saying, “It tastes good”.
Current global Space Station (ISS) crew members Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui of the Japanese space agency ate a red romaine lettuce on Monday which had been grown in orbit. But NASA needs to figure out how to grow food on spacecraft – and on other planets – for future deep space missions such as the one planned to Mars.
NASA announced a few days ago that astronauts on the worldwide Space Station will for the first time get a taste of lettuce that wasn’t grown on Earth. Half of the harvested lettuce will be packaged and frozen until it can be returned to Earth for scientific analysis.
“Besides having the ability to grow and eat fresh food in space, there also may be a psychological benefit”, said Gioia Massa, NASA payload scientist for Veggie. Sohn Jung-in, Arirang News. If NASA heeds astronaut Peggy Wilson, the next batch of pillows should grow spicy peppers.
Once the seeds were placed in soil and fertilizer, an irrigation system sent water through the bottom of the plants in order to provide the plants the necessary nutrients, despite the lack of gravity.
A previous crop of lettuce was grown in space last year but was not eaten by astronauts.
NASA is particularly interested in learning more about the intricacies of growing food in space because of its implications for long-duration missions to destinations like Mars.
Red romaine lettuce was the first food grown in space ever consumed.
Researchers activated rooting “pillows”, which contain the plant seeds, in July and harvested the lettuce after 33 days.
The Veg-01 project, also known as Veggie, aims to test the growth rate of plants in a microgravity environment, and assess how access to fresh products impacts astronauts’ psychological health in space.
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. Those plants were grown and taken back to earth for safety testing, according to Jeffs. NASA has been developing its own space produce since 2002, but so far only it has used the resulting plants for research purposes.