It’s about time astronauts eat their vegetables! After probably many packages of Tang and freeze-dried ice cream, astronauts aboard the International Space Station are beginning the process of growing and consuming their own food. Last week, astronauts enjoyed their own homegrown romaine lettuce. Yum… I think.
NASA started this program, called Veg-01, in May 2014. Plants were grown and cultivated by astronaut Steve Swanson in the ISS. LEDs provided the plants with artificial sunlight, including a green LED to let the plants look more edible. (They would be purple otherwise.)
The plants took 33 days to harvest. Then the containers, or pillows, were sent back to Earth for study.
A second pillow harvested this past July and this time the astronauts were able to chow down.
So, do you think the astronauts enjoyed how it tasted? While romaine lettuce provides important nutrients such as vitamins A and B, protein, iron and water, the taste can be somewhat bland. This can be especially off-putting for astronauts, as taste buds are less potent in space.
Delicious or not, the ability to grow food in space is integral for future missions according to NASA.
“NASA is maturing Veggie technology aboard the space station to provide future pioneers with a sustainable food supplement—a critical part of NASA’s Journey to Mars. As NASA moves toward long-duration exploration missions farther into the solar system, Veggie will be a resource for crew food growth and consumption.”