Agriculture World

Pepper to be the First Fruit Grown in Space

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan
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The International Space Station (ISS) is about to get a bit spicier in November 2019 this year. Astro Scientists are hoping to send up Española chili pepper plants (Capsicum annuum), which could make peppers the very first fruit to be grown in space by American astronauts.

As the peas are botanically part of a fruit, and Russians grew it for years in the Russian segment of the ISS. However, no US astronaut has so far grown a fruiting plant in space, which means that later this year, the Española chili pepper could be the first.

Plants have quite a bit of trouble growing in microgravity, as their root systems are complex and typically use Earth's gravity to orientate themselves.

The astronauts have successfully coaxed plants into growing aboard the ISS by using special types of light & supplementing other techniques for helping the plants figure out which way is "up" and "down".

Back in 2018, a new, nearly self-sufficient growth system known as The Advanced Plant Habitat was sent up to the ISS, joining The Vegetable Production System (Veggie) to help the crew grow fresh food.

This is all important for NASA's ambitious plan to eventually send humans to Mars. We're looking at somewhere between six months and a year to make it to Mars, and once the space pioneers are on their way, we can't easily get them more fresh food from Earth.

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That's not even mentioning their stay on the Red Planet, and then the trip home. Growing their own food is a pretty big priority.  The researchers are working on having a variety of crops in space, particularly focusing on having a wide variety of nutrients and vitamins.

Researchers at NASA are planning on sending a version of chile peppers in space to be grown and harvested at the International Space Station. The peppers, from Española in New Mexico, would be the first fruiting plant to be grown in space once it is sent to the ISS for testing in March 2020. The tests are a part of NASA's major plan to produce food outside Earth's 

Why a pepper?

The obvious question is, if you're sending a fruiting plant, why not send something more appetizing than a pepper? The answer is that not every crop can successfully grow in space and the Española Chile Pepper could just help pave the way for interstellar farming. The plant has already met NASA's needs for easily pollination and the ability to survive in high CO2 environments.

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Hey! I am Chander Mohan. Did you liked this article and have suggestions to improve this article? Mail me your suggestions and feedback.

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