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Astronauts aboard ISS cook up tacos with peppers grown in space

space peppers
Posted at 2:30 PM, Nov 02, 2021

The term "astronaut food" often conjures up images of Tang drink mix and dehydrated ice cream. But the astronaut food cooked up by Megan McArthur on Friday went above and beyond.

McArthur, a NASA astronaut currently aboard the International Space Station, tweeted that she had prepared tacos that included hatch chile peppers grown aboard the ISS.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have grown the chiles for four months as part of NASA's "Plant Habitat-04" experiment. The agency says the experiment is part of the preparations for Artemis missions, which will explore how long humans can live on the moon and beyond.

NASA decided to experiment with growing peppers because they are self-pollinating and an "excellent source of Vitamin C." They also noted that peppers are "robust" and have "a good chance of growing successfully in microgravity."

After two years of tests, research showed that hatch chiles — most commonly found in New Mexico — stood the best chance of growing on the space station.

After a SpaceX rocket carried the seeds and a "science center" pod to the ISS this summer, astronauts began the process of growing the peppers. The chiles grew in plots of baked clay installed in the science center, which also included a controlled-release fertilizer and more than 180 sensors to track their growth.

On Friday, astronauts harvested the first crop of chile peppers. Some of those peppers will return to Earth for further experimentation.

Some of the crops were eaten by the astronauts in tacos prepared by McArthur. She tweeted that her recipe also included fajita beef as well as "rehydrated tomatoes and artichokes."

"Finally, I made my best space tacos yet," McArthur said.