Thomas Pesquet and his fellow astronauts recently harvested the first chilli peppers aboard the international space station (ISS). This result of a complex experience could be highly influential in the future of the conquest of space. They are added now to the already successful grown lettuce, radishes, and cabbage on the ISS.
Other images show the mission partners enjoying tacos 400km above our heads, have already toured the networks. Tacos, made from freeze-dried foods from the Earth (tortilla, meat, artichokes, rehydrated tomatoes, etc) also included the fresh peppers grown.
The cultivation of these peppers – the most difficult so far in space – had started back in July. The seeds had reached the astronauts during a refuelling thanks to a SpaceX capsule. The American Shane Kimbrough, who arrived in the ISS with Thomas Pesquet in April, was responsible for launching their culture as part of an experiment called Plant Habitat-04.
The 48 seeds had been sent in a suitable container, containing terracotta and fertilizer. It was placed in one of the three culture spaces of the ISS: a sort of large microwave oven fitted with more than 180 sensors.
It was then mainly from the Kennedy Space Centre (based in Florida) that the growth of the plants was controlled. The sensors allowed teams on Earth to remotely adjust humidity, temperature, and oxygen levels. And even to generate a light current of air to accelerate pollination. The goal was to ensure that this culture was not time consuming for astronauts, busy with their hundreds of experiments to conduct.
The variety of peppers had previously been carefully selected by scientists at NASA. The chosen hybrid variety, Numex, is native to the state of New Mexico in the United States. It germinates and grows relatively quickly: it takes 100 to 130 days from when the seeds are planted to harvest.
A food rich in vitamin C (and particularly this variety), a nutrient that is sometimes lacking in astronauts, who are used to eating packaged food that loses its nutritional qualities over time. The astronauts were therefore able to taste and appreciate these green and red peppers (from the same plants, the reds are simply picked later). A second harvest is already expected for December.
In the meantime, part of this first harvest will return to Earth soon. Analysis will supplement the first observations of the astronauts concerning the flavour, the texture, and the spiciness of these peppers on the Scoville scale.
While the international space station celebrated 21 years of continuous human presence in space at the beginning of November, food is becoming an important element for larger-scale missions, particularly in the context of the conquest of Mars. Understanding and managing the influence of microgravity that reigns within the ISS is therefore decisive for the future of the conquest of space.
Source: Le Dauphine