The 'Veggie System' succeeds as NASA astronauts feed on lettuce grown in space

By @Guneet_B on
Space Lettuce
Astronauts Kjell Lindgren (L) and Scott Kelly sample lettuce harvested for the first time aboard the International Space Station in this handout photo provided by NASA during Expedition 44, August 10, 2015 Reuters

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, recently announced on Monday, Aug 10, that the astronauts, for the first time in the history, will feed on fresh vegetables grown in space. The following day, the astronauts, including Japan's Kimiya Yui, tasted the lab-grown lettuce for the first time.

Scott Kelly, an astronaut from the United States, shared a video of his team mates consuming the red romaine lettuce in space on his Twitter account. Yui tweeted as well, revealing that the vegetable was delicious indeed.

“ It was one small bite for man, one giant leap for #NASAVEGGIE and our #JourneytoMars,” said Kelly's tweet.

The lettuce was grown using The Vegetable Production System, or Veggie. It is a deployable plant growth unit that can produce crops used to prepare salad. It acts as a safe source of nutrition for the crew members aboard, in addition to being a sources of recreation. According to NASA, “The Veggie provides lighting and nutrient delivery, but utilises the cabin environment for temperature control and as a source of carbon dioxide to promote growth.”

Using the Veggie, the vegetables are grown in specialised chambers using a nutrient medium placed on a pillow-like material. The lettuce grown in May 2014 was brought back by the NASA researchers on Earth to test if it meets the food-safety standards. The lettuce recently consumed by the astronauts in space was grown in July, and the team reportedly used food-safe sanitising wipes to clean the fresh crop before its consumption.

Orbital Technologies Corp. , or ORBITEC, in Madison, Wisconsin, developed The Veggie system. It was tested at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before being deployed to the ISS.

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