Earlier this year, NASA sent a bunch of Hatch chile seeds to space in hopes of growing the pepper fruits aboard the International Space Station. Fast forward a few months and the first batch of peppers have been grown and harvested. In fact, those aboard the Space Station have even sampled their hard work by crafting space tacos using the first-ever peppers grown in space.
Astronaut Megan McArthur revealed a picture of the peppers and tacos on her Twitter account over the weekend, saying she and her colleagues to try both red and green chiles. The tacos here are made with space-safe fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes, and artichokes, with the peppers on top.
Friday Feasting! After the harvest, we got to taste red and green chile. Then we filled out surveys (got to have the data! 😁). Finally, I made my best space tacos yet: fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes & artichokes, and HATCH CHILE! https://t.co/pzvS5A6z5u pic.twitter.com/fJ8yLZuhZS— Megan McArthur (@Astro_Megan) October 29, 2021
Though astronauts have lived and eaten pre-packaged foods on the International Space Station for the past 20 straight years, NASA has placed an increased focus on growing sustainable foods as a part of its larger Artemis mission. The outfit says it hopes to learn enough that eventually, researchers could use it to end up growing their own food in habitats on the Moon and beyond.
"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," the website for NASA's Plant Habitat project reads.
It adds, "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. Since 2015, astronauts have grown and eaten 10 different crops on the space station as they research ways to address these challenges and supplement their diets with fresh food. Other benefits of growing their own crops includes adding variety to meals so astronauts won't grow tired of repeatedly eating the same foods. Researchers are also examining psychological benefits of seeing, smelling, and caring for plants in isolated, closed loop environments. Growing peppers in space may also benefit us here on Earth by demonstrating the feasibility of using existing pepper varieties in controlled environment agriculture."
As far as the choice of hatch chiles is considered, scientists at the Kennedy Space Center selected the kind of pepper after two years of research. It was determined that Hatch peppers adapted best to controlled environments and grew best during tests.