NASA astronauts pick peppers in space for the first time on International Space Station

Humans brought a new form of life to outer Space Friday when NASA crews collected the first ever chile peppers aboard the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough planted the Hatch chile pepper seedlings at the spacestation in June.

“Finally, I made my best space tacos yet: fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes & artichokes, and HATCH CHILE,” astronaut Megan McArthur tweeted.

  • Expedition 66 crew members harvested their Hatch green chile peppers for a taste test on Friday. (NASA)

  • NASA astronaut Megan McArthur next to the Advanced Plant Habitat onboard the International Space Station. (NASA)

Astronauts have access to a wide variety of freeze-dried and prepackages meals that they are regularly re-supplied with, but learning how to grow fresh produce millions of miles from earth will be key to longer missions.

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“The challenge is the ability to feed crews in low-Earth orbit, and then to sustain explorers during future missions beyond low-Earth orbit to destinations including the Moon, as part of the Artemis program, and eventually to Mars,” Matt Romeyn, principal investigator for NASA’s Plant Habitat-04 experiment, explained. We are restricted to growing crops that do not require storage or processing. Romeyn believes that growing peppers and other vegetables may be good for astronauts’ psychological well-being as well.

NASA astronauts planted the Hatch chile seeds in an Advanced Plant Habitat, a growth chamber outfitted with more than 180 sensors and LED lights that are controlled by a crew at the Kennedy Space Center.

  • Hatch green chiles growing inside the Advanced Plant Habitat. (NASA)

  • NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough fills the Advanced Plant Habitat with water to feed the chile peppers. (NASA)

A similar chamber known as the Vegetable Production System has been growing crops for about six years, including lettuce, cabbage, kale, and zinnia flowers. A team from Kennedy Space Center placed a group of control peppers under almost identical conditions to determine if space and microgravity had any effect on the Hatch chiles’ growth.

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“The spiciness of a pepper is determined by environmental growing conditions,” LaShelle Spencer, PH-04’s project science team lead, explained. The combination of light quality, microgravity and temperature will affect the flavor. It will also impact how it will ripen and develop. “

By editor