NASA Reports Space Grown Veggies are on the Menu for Expedition 44 Crew Members

Mon. August 10th, 2015
- by Melissa De Leon Chavez     

OUTER SPACE - It may be a small bite for the crew members of Expedition 44, but it’s a pretty big leap for agriculture. Astronauts on the International Space Station are eating the first space-grown salad made from their "Outredgeous" red romaine lettuce, a product of NASA’s Veg-01 plant experiment.

Dr. Gioia Massa, NASA Payload Scientist for Veggie at Kennedy (Photo Source: WUCF)"Microbiological food safety analysis looks very good on the first Veg-01 crop of romaine lettuce," Dr. Gioia Massa said in a NASA press release. Dr. Massa is the NASA Payload Scientist for Veggie at Kennedy, having both worked on the unit for certification in space and on the necessary steps to get approval for the produce to be eaten by the crew.

The process of this salad is a tentative one. The astronauts will clean the leafy greens with citric acid-based, food safe sanitizing wipes before eating anything, and are to only eat half of the crop harvested. The other half is to be set aside, packaged, and frozen on the station until it can be brought back to Earth for scientific analysis.

According to NASA, Veggie will be a resource for crew food growth and consumption as it moves toward long-duration exploration missions farther into the solar system. Veggie is also a good way to support astronauts psychologically as well as physically on their travels.

Dr. Ray Wheeler, lead for Advanced Life Support activities in the Exploration Research and Technology Programs Office at Kennedy"There is evidence that supports fresh foods, such as tomatoes, blueberries and red lettuce are a good source of antioxidants,” Dr. Ray Wheeler, lead for Advanced Life Support activities in the Exploration Research and Technology Programs Office at Kennedy, said. “Having fresh food like these available in space could have a positive impact on people's moods and also could provide some protection against radiation in space."

Whitmire said Earth studies have shown plants are associated with well-being and optimal performance. Massa agreed, but fresh means fast consumption is necessary. Being able to grow food can magnify what crews already get.

“The crew does get some fresh fruits or vegetables, such as carrots or apples, when a supply ship arrives at the space station. But the quantity is limited and must be consumed quickly."

The historic appetizer is to be eaten today, August 10th, and the Kennedy and Johnson team expressed hope that Veggie will lead to a valued feature of life at the space station, and someday on Mars.