Red hot Spanish chili peppers, to be grown and served in space by NASA
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to grow its first fruit plant in space — Spanish chili peppers.
- Their vitamin consistency, shorter growth period and resistance to high-carbon dioxide environment makes them ideal for growth in space.
- Growing nutritional fresh produce in space is key for long duration manned missions where prepackaged food will not be enough for sustenance.
Initially, the plan was to grow New Mexico’s Hatch peppers until Jacob Torres, a technical and horticultural scientist at NASA, suggested growing Spanish chili peppers instead. These New Mexico peppers are spicier, and will tickle the taste buds of astronauts have been pining for flavour in their food.
And it will also help turn food nutritious — something the current pre-packaged meals lack — Torres told CNN.
Hot for peppers
It’s tricky to choose which plant to grow in space. The plant has to be easy to grow and needs to have the ability to survive in a high-carbon dioxide environment.
Chili peppers meet that requirement. They’re also heavily packed with vitamins to help fight space related health issues that ail astronauts.
Spanish peppers are better than Hatch peppers as they grow at higher altitudes requiring less oxygen. They also grow fast.
Toress says the project is exceeding expectations so far and NASA plans to have them aboard the ISS sometime between November to January.
Fresh food production in space
It’s not that NASA hasn’t been growing food in space. Ensuring astronauts have a healthy and nutritional diet is important for long duration space missions.
So, aboard the ISS, Americans have been testing their vegetation production system, with different techniques.
In fact, they’re sending back samples back to the Earth this week for analysis — to check for impact of light, quality and fertilizer as well as the nutritional value — while the crew aboard the ISS will taste test the new editions.
So far, NASA has managed to grow Chinese cabbage, mizuna mustard, red Russian kale and zinnia flowers on the ISS.
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