After the successful experiment with vegetables, the astronauts also want to grow red and green peppers aboard the International Space Station (ISS). According to the special agency, the experiment is the first of its kind. Last week, NASA announced that astronaut Shane Kimbrough, a flight engineer who launched to the ISS in April and who has experience growing plants in the orbiting laboratory, launched an experiment inserting 48 seeds into Advanced Plant Habitat. (APH).
A team from the Kennedy Space Center’s exploration and research technology programs planted the seeds in a device called a science carrier that fits into the APH. “The APH is the largest plant growth facility on the space station and has 180 sensors and controls to monitor plant growth and the environment,” Nicole Dufour, project manager for the experiment, said in a statement.
It will take about four months to reach the harvest
“It’s a diverse growth chamber and it allows us to help control the Kennedy experiment, reducing the time astronauts spend on cultures,” Dufour said. Hatch chili seeds arrived at the space station last month aboard a SpaceX commercial resupply services mission. For the peppers to be edible, they will need about four months.
If the project is successful, it will be the first time that astronauts have grown peppers in season, from seed to maturity. The plan is for the crew to eat it and send the rest to Earth for analysis. While astronauts have previously harvested vegetables like lettuce and radishes, the experiment is one of the most complex plant projects on the ISS to date due to long germination and growth times. “We have already tested flowering to increase the chances of a successful harvest, as astronauts will need to pollinate the peppers to produce fruit,” said Matt Romeyn, principal investigator of the experiment, in a statement.
The researchers hope that the culture will help supplement the astronauts’ diet on future missions. According to NASA, crew members may also prefer spicy or spicy foods because they may temporarily lose their sense of taste or smell after living in microgravity.