Space lettuce: astronauts eat first-ever off-world veggies

The first fresh food grown in a microgravity environment – off of the planet Earth – have been consumed by astronauts aboard the International Space Station this week. Members of Expedition 44 shared video of their harvest and consumption of the lettuce they grew, part of an experiment called Veg-01. Before samples of the lettuce are sent back to the surface of our planet, astronauts took their first bites. This experiment was started by Expedition 39's flight engineer Steve Swanson back in May of 2014.

The first video you'll be seeing here shows one of the astronauts removing the lettuce from its containment chamber. Four videos were shared by the crew, each in glorious 720p at 60fps for optimum realness.

ABOVE: Image from astronaut Scott Kelly.

Next you'll see the lettuce begin to be cleaned. Here the lettuce is being prepared for harvest. Unlike normal lettuce, this plant has to be carefully prepared for each subsequent step in its life, from planting, to growth, harvest, and consumption.

Below you'll see several leaves cut from the plant. Notice how the plant's leaves aren't just pulled and ripped from the plant – this lettuce is far too important to risk damage.

The final step is taking a bite of the lettuce. Apparently the leaves all taste "awesome."

This mission is being done in preparation for longer expeditions, making a path towards eventually visiting planets like Mars and traveling outside of our known galaxy.

Again, the remainder of the plants will be sent back to Earth for further study. ISS astronauts currently have plenty of food to eat for the foreseeable future, while the next few years may prove that growing food is more efficient aboard the ISS and subsequent space vehicles.