The four astronauts currently in the International Space Station have tasted the very first peppers grown in space, as part of an experiment NASA is conducting to eventually provide key nutrients to humans on their long-duration deep space missions.
Through the experiment Plant Habitat-04, the team of astronauts grew a hybrid variety of mild heat chili peppers called NuMex ‘Española Improved’ Pepper. It was chosen since it is an excellent source of Vitamin C, a crucial nutrient – along with Vitamin K – for humans who stay long periods of time in space.
The experiment was initiated in the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH), and the mild heat pepper performed best in group tests. Still, it was challenging to grow them since they require longer growing times and need pollination before the fruit develops. Consequently, APH’s 180 sensors were used to closely monitor the peppers and to control the environment. Seven mild peppers were harvested in space.