As someone who grew up in the state of New Mexico in the USA. I grew up eating green chiles in almost every meal. The tradition to grow these chili peppers spans hundreds, and even perhaps thousands, of years with indigenous peoples cultivating peppers. The states motto, “red or green,” refers to the pepper, and it can be heard in almost every restaurant serving traditional cuisine. Now, incredibly, the famous pepper has been grown aboard the International Space Station with help from high school and middle school students from Aztec, New Mexico. A feat that let the entire crew of astronauts enjoy fresh green chilies in space -a sentence so cool I can’t even believe I’m writing it!
Suffice to say these chilies are integral to the New Mexican cultural experience. Once again Nasa has accomplished a feat once thought impossible, growing crops in space.
Nasa wants to grow more plants in space for subsistence and aesthetics and this isn’t the first time crops have been grown in space. Tomatoes, lettuce, and even flowers are grown in the “veggie” pod or VPS aboard the space station. Each is relatively small, and can hold six plants. In a zero gravity environment plants grow in different ways and in directions commonly following available light. Much of what is grown is first tested in the Kennedy Space Center in Florida then sent to the ISS. So, while other plants have been grown in space, the chilies are the first time a more challenging plant was grown aboard the International Space Station. This was done to study how space affects the relationship between plants and microorganisms. A better understanding of this relationship is crucial to the future of space travel. Not doubt this discovery vastly improves the lives of astronauts aboard the ISS. I hope they enjoyed the tacos made with fresh flavorful ingredients. Before too long I bet they will have an entire salad bar!