Why red hot chili peppers are growing on the International Space Station

Chris Burns - Jul 19, 2021, 10:19am CDT
Why red hot chili peppers are growing on the International Space Station

The newest sort of tasty experimentally-grown food to hit the International Space Station are chile (or chili) peppers. Red and green chili peppers, sent to the ISS in the form of Hatch chili pepper seeds, are in the process of being grown for the consumption of astronauts in the next few months. This is part of NASA’s Plant Habitat-04 (PH-04) experiment.

Below you’ll see a video presented by NASA on the growing of peppers in space. As part of the Advanced Plant Habitat aboard the ISS, this experiment will roll with 48 Hatch chili peppers that’ll grow over a period of several months. As noted by a representative of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, “This will be one of the longest and most challenging plant experiments attempted aboard the orbital lab.”

Peppers were chosen after extensive testing with a wide variety of plans. Peppers are dense with nutrients like Vitamin C, don’t need extensive processing, and they are SPICY. Astronauts have a tendency to have lowered senses of smell and taste as a temporary side effect of living in microgravity, according to PH-04 principal investigator Matt Romeyn. As such, foods like peppers are ideal for folks floating around in space.

“Growing colorful vegetables in space can have long-term benefits for physical and psychological health,” Romeyn said. “We are discovering that growing plants and vegetables with colors and smells helps to improve astronauts’ well-being.”

This experiment was initiated by NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, who in turn was one of the astronauts responsible for growing (and eating) lettuce on the ISS in 2016. That was the “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce reported on in part in August of 2015. Kimbrough is part of the seven-member Expedition 65 crew and most recently launched to the ISS in April as commander for the NASA SpaceX Crew-2 mission that’ll last approximately six months.


Must Read Bits & Bytes