ISS crew grew 27 peppers in space and used some for tacos

Recently we highlighted an experiment that sauce maker Heinz championed in which tomato plants were grown in simulated Martian soil. Now NASA has concluded it’s longest plant experiment yet aboard the International Space Station.

Back in June the Crew-2 Endeavour mission launched to the International Space Station with the crew unaware they would spend 198 days aboard the floating laboratory before the mission came to an end.

Aboard that flight to the ISS were 48 sanitised Hatch chile pepper seeds which Shane Kimbrough used to start the Plant Habitat-04 experiment. The seeds were placed in the Advanced Plant Habitat aboard the ISS and water was added on 12th July.

The first crop of seven peppers was harvested on 29th October and eaten by the crew aboard the ISS. NASA says that flight engineer Megan McArthur added the peppers to a taco they made using fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes and artichokes.

Clearly the rest of the crew thought this was a brilliant idea because when the second harvest was complete the peppers were used to make more tacos for a taco night.

In total 26 peppers were harvested from four plants aboard the ISS and 12 were sent back to Earth to be studied.

“The level of excitement around the first harvest and the space tacos was unprecedented for us,” said principal investigator for PH-04 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Matt Romeyn.

“All indications are some of the fruit were on the spicier side, which is not unexpected, given the unknown effect microgravity could have on the capsaicin levels of peppers,” Romeyn added.

Another interesting observation made during the experiment was that the stems that connect the flowers and fruit were not curved but straight. NASA says that this is definitely an effect of growing crops in microgravity.

This experiment was not only the longest it also set the record for feeding the most astronauts from a crop grown in space.

You can read more about the experiment and what other plant experiments NASA has planned for the future here.

[Image – NASA]


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