As we were telling you yesterday, astronauts aboard the International Space Station were preparing for the first meal that involved space-grown veggies. It’s a remarkable moment, which might pave the way for future space exploration… and it’s delicious!

“That’s awesome,” exclaimed Nasa astronaut Kjell Lindgren, after he ate a piece of red romaine lettuce that was grown in a special box aboard the orbiting outpost.

American astronaut Scott Kelly echoed these feelings.

“Tastes good,” agreed US astronaut Scott Kelly, who is spending one year at the research station. “Kind of like arugula,” Mr Kelly added, then used small bottles to spread extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on his leaf, much as one might spread ketchup and mustard on a hot dog.

Growing food in outer space is crucial if we want to ever achieve long-term space travel. For a mission to Mars for example, astronauts would travel about a year with current technology – with no way to resupply, that’s two years of travel, plus the time spent on Mars, so you need to pack a lot of supplies. Growing food is as sustainable on Earth as it is in space, and might alleviate some of that need.

“It was one small bite for man, one giant leap for #NASAVEGGIE and our #JourneytoMars,” U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly wrote on his Twitter account with a video of the crew consuming the vegetable.

But growing food in outer space is no easy feat, and we don’t really know how microgravity would affect the plants, and this is another reason why this experiment is so important. For starters, the planting is done completely different. The seeds are placed on a pillow-like material with nutrients and grow in specially designed chambers.

RELATED  Japanese spaceship loaded with ISS trash burns after entering Earth atmoshpere

NASA first started growing lettuce in 2014, but they took it to Earth first for tests, to ensure that it’s safe to eat and to establish its nutritious value. They deemed it safe to eat, and astronauts loved it. So, we’re preparing for a long term space exploration mission, one delicious veggie at a time.

Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!

Estimate my solar savings!