Nasa astronauts feast on ‘best tacos’ with chilli peppers grown in space

Four months after they started its cultivation, Nasa astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday finally “feasted” on the chilli peppers harvested in space. 

“After the harvest, we got to taste red and green chile. Then we filled out surveys (got to have the date) Finally, I made my best space tacos yer: fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes and artichokes, and HATCH CHILE,” wrote Nasa astronaut Meghan McArthur on her social media account.

She also posted photos of the first space-grown green chili pepper.

According to an official release by Nasa, chilli cultivation in space is a part of Nasa’s Plant Habitat-04 (PH-04) experiment and was one of the most complex to date on the station because of the long germination and growing duration.

The experiment is aimed at exploring ways to sustain space explorers for missions to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars, and missions that may last for months or even years.

Astronauts have grown and eaten 10 different crops on the space stations since 2015.

“Feeding crews on the Moon, and especially Mars, will be a logistical challenge. While crews will still rely on packaged foods from Earth, part of the challenge is that sending supplies beyond low-Earth orbit requires more propellant and longer delivery times, particularly to Mars,” Nasa had earlier said. 

“Packaged foods stored for long periods results in degradation of the food quality, which reduces the amount of key nutrients like Vitamin C and Vitamin K,” it added. 

Why peppers?

Peppers contain several key nutrients and are an excellent source of Vitamin C. The plants are also robust with a good chance of growing successfully in microgravity. 

Peppers are self-pollinating, making fruit easy to grow as it only requires agitating the plants. Plus, peppers add tasty variety to crew diets. 

They are easy to handle in microgravity and are a pick-and-eat crop that does not require cooking or complex processing. The fruit also have low microbial levels, so they are safe for astronauts to consume. 

While taking far longer to grow than NASA’s previous space crops, this variety of peppers matures in a few months and has grown well in the limited space available inside the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) during ground tests.

 

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