Astronauts on the International Space Station add something spicy to their diet: red and green chili peppers.
Hatch chili peppers arrived at the station in June as part of an experiment initiated by astronaut Shane Kimbrough, NASA said.
Kimbrough, who is part of the seven-member Expedition 65 crew, grew and ate “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce in 2016.
“This is one of the most complex experiments on the station to date due to the long germination and growth times,” PH-04 principal investigator Matt Romeyn said in a NASA press release. .
A team from the Kennedy Space Center’s research and exploration technology programs planted the seeds in a science stand that fits into a plant growth chamber, the Advanced Plant Habitat, in the orbiting lab where astronauts grow crops, according to NASA.
But astronauts will have to wait before taking a bite. The peppers take four months to grow, and the astronauts will have to harvest them one last time before they are eaten.
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The crew should eat some of the peppers and return the rest to Earth for analysis if it is shown that they are safe to eat.
“We have already tested flowering to increase the chances of a successful harvest, as astronauts will need to pollinate the peppers to grow fruit,” Romeyn said.
In late 2015, astronauts grew zinnias on the station, a precursor to flowering crops that take longer to grow, such as peppers.
Due to microgravity, station crews may lose some of their sense of taste and smell and may prefer more spicy or seasoned foods, Romeyn said.
“Growing colorful vegetables in space can have long-term physical and psychological health benefits,” Romeyn said.
“In order to successfully send people to Mars and bring them back to Earth, we will need not only the most nutritious foods, but also the best tasting foods.”
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Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: [email protected]