NASA astronauts eat peppers grown in space station, on mission from Earth

All seven crew members are embarking on a yearlong mission onboard the ISS. First they are experimenting with ways to feed them throughout that time

People on Earth, and very soon in space, are witnessing something remarkable for the first time: NASA astronauts are eating peppers grown inside the International Space Station.

That’s right, the astronauts are putting the peppers in a pod and putting them inside the space station before slicing them open and eating them.

“Spices are, I think, traditionally considered somewhat exotic or something that is kind of not a part of the everyday diet,” said Scott Tingle, lead cook on the mission, in a NASA interview. “That is something that is extremely important to the health of astronauts.”

Since those astronauts can’t go outside for about a year, for the mission the crew have been forced to grow their own food in a dome, equipped with video screens showing the food grow. When not in space, astronauts are feeding themselves a mix of meats, fish and algae.

The opportunity to grow their own food on the space station was made possible by a partnership with General Mills and Mountain High Produce, a specialty company based in San Clemente, California.

“When we started having people here that have been on the space station before, one of the major changes was that they would say that we don’t have to worry about hunger and taking something from the freezer … we are literally eating our own space food,” said Melissa Deo, General Mills’ vice president of corporate social responsibility, speaking to NBC News.

The experiment gives the crew a chance to learn more about their food needs. Space food is always changing because of how tough it is to grow on such a tight, small vessel, as well as the ever-changing climate on the space station.

General Mills also uses the opportunity to educate the crew and will publish a complete check-up of the crew’s food.

Of course, the planet’s almost 200 million inhabitants back home are watching, and may eventually be making similar journeys. The next step is to identify a pepper variety that can be grown in space, and supply the space station crew with the pepper pods. Then, Deo said, one of the next steps will be to try to grow salsas and other plants.

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