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Astronauts harvest space lettuce

Jenny Winder, News Writer
Aug 11, 2015, 3:26 UTC

Sen—Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have harvested and tasted their first crop of space-grown Outredgeous red romaine lettuce from NASA's Veg-01 Veggie plant growth system.

Veggie uses rooting "pillows" that contain the seeds which are grown under LED lights: red and blue lights needed for good plant growth, and green lights to make the plants look edible.

NASA hopes the experiment will help provide future pioneers, on long-duration exploration missions, with a sustainable food supplement.

Dr Gioia Massa, the NASA payload scientist for Veggie at Kennedy, explained in a statement: "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 lettuce seeds had been on the station for 15 months before NASA astronaut Scott Kelly activated the pillows on July 8. They were allowed to grow for 33 days before being harvested.

The crew had to clean the lettuce with food-safe sanitizing wipes before consuming them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Half of the harvest will be packaged and frozen on the station until it can be returned to Earth for scientific analysis.

"We hope to increase the amount and type of crop in the future, and this will allow us to learn more about growing plants in microgravity," Massa stated. "We have upcoming experiments that will look at the impacts of light quality on crop yield, nutrition, and flavor, both on Earth and in space."

Today, two Russian cosmonauts—ISS commander Gennady Padalka and flight engineer Mikhail Kornienko—began a six-hour spacewalk to install new equipment and perform maintenance. Their tasks included cleaning a window of propellant residue that had built up from visiting spacecraft.

Expedition 44 and One-Year Crew currently aboard the ISS are Padalka and Kornienko plus cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA's Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren, and JAXA's Kimiya Yui.

For details of every human who has been in space since the first spaceflight of Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961, including who is in space now and their previous missions, check out Sen’s human spaceflight app.

ISS astronauts sample veggies grown in space. Credit: NASA Kennedy