first space-grown vegetables

Astronauts eat vegetables grown on the Space Station for the first time, a major step towards Mars mission.

Images credit NASA

NASA has grown red romaine lettuce, on the International Space Station, for the first time in orbit.

The six astronauts currently living on the International Space Station (ISS) have become the first people to eat food grown in space. The fresh red romaine lettuce that accompanied the crew’s usual freeze-dried fare, however, is far from the first crop grown on a space station. For decades, NASA and other agencies have experimented with plants in space, but the results were always sent to Earth for examination, rather than eaten.

A number of technologies NASA has explored for these space-farming experiments also have returned to Earth over the years and found their way onto the market.

Orbital Technologies (ORBITEC), for example, partnered with Kennedy Space Center to develop the plant growth system—known as Veggie—that produced this most recent crop of lettuce, as well as its predecessor, the Biomass Production System. Many features of the high-efficiency lighting system the company developed with Kennedy funding have been incorporated into ORBITEC’s commercial offerings.

growing vegetables in space

That’s one small bite for a man, one giant leaf for mankind: Astronauts Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui of Japan sample the fruits of their labor after harvesting a crop of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce from the Veggie plant growth system on the International Space Station.

As the International Space Station crew gets ready for the first on-orbit tasting of space-grown lettuce, NASA Commentator Lori Meggs talks with Paul Zamprelli of Orbitec, the company that developed the Veggie greenhouse.