Astronauts to dine on space lettuce for the first time in history
Astronauts are about to get their first bites of space lettuce.
On Monday, Expedition 44 crew members on board the International Space Station will sample red romaine lettuce grown in microgravity—the first such batch grown for human consumption.
Half the lettuce will be returned to Earth for further study as part of the Veg-01 experiment designed to study the function and performance of the Veggie plant growth system. Growing food in space is considered integral to long-term space missions.
According to NASA, Veggie "is a deployable plant growth unit capable of producing salad-type crops to provide the crew with a palatable, nutritious, and safe source of fresh food and a tool to support relaxation and recreation."
See photos of the space lettuce:
Veggie operates via "pillows" which contain seeds. Once the pillows are activated, they need to be watered and cared for just like any other plants.
The system gets around lack of sunlight by using LEDs. Only blue and red lights are necessary, but a green light was added in order to appeal to the aesthetic taste of humans. Otherwise the plants would grow purple and might look inedible. Monday's crop isn't the first lettuce to be grown in space; the first crop was sent back to Earth in its entirety where it was tested and deemed safe to eat.