Astronauts on the International space station try to spice up their diet.
Astronauts are growing red and green chili peppers in space for what will be “one of the longest and most difficult plant experiments attempted aboard the orbital laboratory.” NASA said.
Hatching chilli seeds arrived at the station in June aboard a EspaceX commercial resupply services mission.
NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, a flight engineer who helped the growth Outredgeous red romaine lettuce in space in 2016, initiated the experiment by inserting 48 seeds in the advanced plant habitat (APH) on July 12.
A team from the Kennedy Space Center’s research and exploration technology programs planted these seeds in a device called a science stand, which fits into the APH, one of the lab’s three orbiting plant growth chambers. where astronauts grow crops.
The size of a kitchen oven, the APH is the ISS’s largest plant growth facility. With 180 sensors and monitoring controls, it allows the experiment to be controlled, in part from the Kennedy Space Center, so astronauts can spend less time tending to crops.
“This is the first time that NASA astronauts have grown a crop of chili peppers on the station, from seed to maturity,” NASA said in a press release.
This experiment is one of the most complex plant experiments on the ISS to date due to the long germination and growth times, said lead researcher Matt Romeyn.
“We have already tested flowering to increase the chances of a successful harvest, as the astronauts will need to pollinate the peppers to grow fruit.”
The experiment comes after astronauts started growing zinnias in 2015, which NASA called “a precursor to growing longer lasting fruit and flower crops.”
Researchers spent two years evaluating more than two dozen varieties of pepper and ultimately landed on NuMex “Española Improved” pepper, a Hatch hybrid pepper from New Mexico.
Romeyn said crew members may prefer spicy or seasoned foods because they may temporarily lose their sense of taste or smell after living in microgravity.
The peppers should be ready for harvest in about three and a half months. After eating a few, the crew plan to send the rest to Earth for analysis.
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