It was, quite literally, a bite that was out of this world. And it tasted “awesome”, according to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

The very first outer space lettuce was grown in a small, microwave-sized box for more than a year, and exposed to LED lights. The crew members first used sanitary wipes to clean the lettuce before trying them raw, and then with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and Italian balsamic vinegar.

The astronauts said it tasted “fresh” and “kind of like arugula” – a great alternative to the usual packaged, freeze-dried space food.

The space-grown lettuce is part of an official NASA experiment called Veg-01, which was meant to study plant growth in a micro-gravity environment. The experiment also serves as a way for scientists to improve the current methods used in growing produce in orbit.

Preparing for Mars?

Creating a spacecraft that is sustainable is part of NASA’s mission to get the first humans on Mars. The ability to grow food in outer space is an integral part of the equation, as a journey to Mars requires long-duration spaceflight. As an aside, depending on the orbits of Earth and Mars, this can take anywhere from 150 to 300 days. Roughly every 2 years Earth and Mars reach their closest point called “opposition” when Mars is “only” 55 Million km away (34 Million miles).

The success of growing red romaine lettuce in space allows researchers and astronauts to look further into how they can grow other types of fresh produce and large plants on the space station.

Researchers also believe it can improve the health and happiness of astronauts in space. In addition to providing antioxidants that protect against radiation, fresh vegetables also serve as a great reminder of life back home. Simply having plants around the space station was enough to make astronauts feel more at home, and less out of touch with Earth.

Another great benefit that comes with a self-sustaining food supply is getting rid of costly resupply flights. Without the need to constantly replenish food, astronauts will be able to venture out into deeper territory.

Here is an HD video of the astronauts eating their space lettuce for the first time:

5 Comments
  1. This is a big step, especially if we think about bigger goals like colonization. Sending humans to Mars would require enough food for their living, so a method of growing vegetables in space is needed before actually sending humans in outer space. I would’ve liked to taste that salad as well! Bring some more for me as well!

  2. I find it so weird that they grew things in space because space is usually thought of almost like a wasteland where nothing can survive and grow. This reminded me of the movie “The Martian”. After watching the movie, I think it would be a good idea to figure out how to grow things in Space or on other planets, as that grown food could be very valuable. I would have liked to try some of those space grown vegetables. Maybe they can grow some more and ship them back to Earth :D?

  3. I’ve been growing vegetables in my basement with LED lights and I thought I was pretty cool, but these astronauts shattered my ego! 🙁
    A sustainable spacecraft is key if we want to even make it to Mars, we have to be prepared for a long travel and every possibility.

  4. Well, you know, even if the salad doesn’t really look exactly fresh and nice, it’s still an advance, and even though it looks really complicated to make it happen in this moment I’m pretty sure that technology will surprise us, maybe progressively in 100 years or maybe relatively soon, who knows.
    It’s kind of frustrating that I won’t be alive to presence humans or Mars, it would be really interesting to see their life in other plantets, I guess.

  5. This is proof that vegetables can be grown in space and all those people who thought it’s time humans colonized Mars should be happy because this means that it’s possible for those traveling to Mars to grow their own food.

    Of course there were some other experiments that tried to find out if earth crops could grow on Mars soil.

    The results were positive but this [growing lettuce in space] is all the proof we need to know that it’s possible for earth crops to be grown on Mars soil problem though is there’s no Oxygen on Mars . . .

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