Today’s the day astronauts aboard the International Space Station will get to eat fresh produce they grew themselves. It’s a project that’s been more than a year in the making, with a batch of red lettuce being grown from seed, freeze-dried, then brought back on Space-X for testing in a NASA lab last October. After everything checked out, Scott Kelly (who’s on a year-long mission aboard ISS) started a second batch of lettuce in July for a taste-testing, from seeds that had been on board for 15 months.
The greenhouse system that’s allowing them to do this is called VEG-01, or Veggie, and was developed by a Wisconsin company called Orbital Technologies. They’re using the technology being tested in space on the ground, as well, in places like Dubai, which has to import 95 percent of its food because of inhospitable growing conditions.
It’s the first open-air greenhouse ever used in space, and due to that, there had to be a lot of tests to make sure the food wasn’t affected by space microbes flying around. Despite the thumbs-up from NASA scientists back home, the new batch of lettuce will be cleaned with citric-acid-based sanitizing wipes before consumption later today.