Space Food: NASA Astronauts Get a Taste Test

Expedition 44 crew members, including NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, have successfully eaten the first space-grown food in the history of ever, and it took the form of simple romaine lettuce.

How Did it Taste?

On August 10 Kelly and fellow Expedition 44 crew members harvested the second batch of space crops sent up to the International Space Station (ISS). This batch was planted in July–a whopping 15 months after the pillow seeds had been brought aboard the ISS–and took 33 days to grow before the crops were harvested by the NASA astronaut.

Astronaut Kjell Lindgren tweeted a photo of the space lettuce saying that he was almost sad to see it go. A follow-up tweet in regards to eating the lettuce was simply, “That’s awesome,” as the astronaut gave a thumbs up to the camera in an accompanying photograph.

Read more about NASA’s space food initiatives here!

Some Background

NASA is calling this space gardening experiment Veg-01, and its goal is to test out the space station’s veggie facility in preparation of long-term space missions. In the experiment, seeds and fertilizer are “planted” in pillow seeds, which are flown up to the ISS in typical cargo missions. When it’s time to plant the crops, they’ll need approximately 33 days to grow before they can be harvested and eaten.

In the photographs of the romaine lettuce, you’ll see a lot of weird colors. The NASA astronauts shine a combination of red, blue, and green light through LEDs. The green LEDs aren’t necessary, but they do add a familiar light to the crop that would otherwise have a purple color to them. This was done in an effort to make them look more edible.

The first batch of crop was brought up with Expedition 39, and has already been grown, frozen, and sent back to NASA for study. The latest batch was consumed by the astronauts, though half of the harvest will again be sent back to NASA for study.

What’s Next?

This first step in sustainable foods is huge. The ability for astronauts to grow food on their own means NASA can sustain crews in long-duration space missions to places like Mars, or even further. NASA isn’t putting all of its eggs in one basket, though. The organization recently received $200,000 in grants to study how NASA may be able to turn human waste into an alternative food source.


Before you go, check out the week in review in video form: