Astronauts on the International Space Station are adding something spicy to their diet: red and green chile peppers.
Chile peppers from Hatch, New Mexico, arrived at the station in June as a part of an experiment initiated by astronaut Shane Kimbrough, NASA said.
Kimbrough, part of the seven-member Expedition 65 crew, grew and ate “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce in 2016.
“It is one of the most complex plant experiments on the station to date because of the long germination and growing times,” Matt Romeyn, principal investigator for PH-04, said in a NASA news release.
A team with the Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Research and Technology programs planted the seeds in a science carrier that slots into a plant growth chamber, the Advanced Plant Habitat, on the orbiting laboratory where astronauts raise crops, according to NASA.
The astronauts will have to wait before taking a bite. The peppers take four months to grow, and astronauts will have to harvest them a final time before being eaten.
The crew plans to eat some of the peppers and send the rest back to Earth for analysis if it is shown that they are safe to eat.
“We have previously tested flowering to increase the chance for a successful harvest because astronauts will have 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.
Because of microgravity, crews at the station can lose some of their sense of taste and smell and may prefer spicier or seasoned foods, Romeyn said.
“Growing colorful vegetables in space can have long-term benefits for physical and psychological health,” Romeyn said.
“To successfully send people to Mars and bring them back to Earth, we will not only require the most nutritious foods but the best tasting ones as well.”
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