By: Nick Gambino
It’s official – this health-kick of eating your vegetables has reached atmospheric heights, or in this case outer-atmospheric heights. On Monday, NASA astronauts on the International Space Station ate red romaine lettuce that they planted and grew in outer space.
This may seem like a small thing and it is but it’s a large step towards aiding astronauts in future long space travels, let’s say, to Mars. They can only bring so much food with them but with the ability to grow and harvest produce they’ll be able to sustain themselves for significantly longer.
Before consuming the space lettuce the astronauts did what any sensible modern day earthling would do, they tweeted out photos of it.
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) August 9, 2015
The next day they videoed themselves as they cleaned the space lettuce with citric acid-based sanitizing wipes and dressed it with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Now it was time to eat the fruits (or vegetables rather) of their 15 months of labor. That’s how long those romaine seeds were on the space station before finally being ready for consumption.
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) August 8, 2015
After a round of “cheers” and biting into it astronaut, Kjell Lindgren said, “That’s awesome.” I’m not sure I’ve ever in my life bitten into lettuce and thought to myself, “that’s awesome.” But hey, I’ve also never sat or floated in zero gravity outside the Earth’s atmosphere and chomped into lettuce that was of historical significance.
The experiment was a success and means a lot going forward. The NASA Payload Specialist for this experiment, Dr. Gioia Massa stated it pretty clearly. “The farther and longer humans go away from Earth, the greater the need to be able to grow plants for food, atmosphere recycling and psychological benefits.”
They didn’t consume all of the space lettuce however as at least half of it needs to be packaged up and shipped back to Earth to be studied. Further, NASA plans on studying the psychological effects plant life has on humans in space.
“Future spaceflight missions could involve four to six crew members living in a confined space for an extended period of time, with limited communication,” said Alexandra Whitmire, a NASA Behavioral Health and Performance Research scientist.
“It will be important to provide training that will be effective and equip the crew with adequate countermeasures during their mission.”
So there you have it. That’s one small bite of space lettuce, one giant leap for interstellar exploration.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.