An Aerospace First: Astronauts Eat Food Grown in Space

By Phill Powell

The conquest of space has given us thousands of “firsts.” Now add eating food that was created in space to the list: For the first time ever, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) ate food that was actually grown in space.


Astronauts aboard the ISS sample their first harvest of red romaine lettuce.

It all started in April 2014, when a growing system called the Veggie-01 was delivered to the ISS. The apparatus contained everything astronauts needed to grow their own food – like soil beds containing lettuce seeds.

Once the system was initiated, it only took 33 days for the lettuce crop to reach maturity, thanks to Veggie’s array of LED grow lights.

Space-Age Salad
The lettuce was cleaned before eating using special food-safe sanitizing wipes containing citric acid. Astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Scott Kelly and Kimiya Yui reported via Twitter that they added oil and vinegar to the lettuce, making what should be considered the first salad grown in space. Part of the lettuce from this first harvest will be frozen and returned to Earth for further study.

NASA_Veggie_system
The Veggie-01 grow system was sent from earth with seeds already planted in soil beds. The system was activated aboard the ISS.

Even though this was a light-hearted event, it marks important milestones in aerospace engineering and rocket science. If Mars is to be colonized during coming decades, learning how to effectively grow food in space and other planets will become vitally important.

“Mars or Bust!”
As government and commercial space exploration outfits focus their energies on making a mission to Mars, the need for trained and talented space engineers and other scientists will continue to grow.

growing_food_on_mars
Someday crops could be grown on Mars to feed colonizers from Earth.

Kids can check out ultra-cool space camps this summer at Digital Media Academy tech camp locations across the U.S. and Canada. Campers dabble in science and physics and get to work on cool experiments. Plus, it starts them thinking about the future of space exploration…and maybe their own futures, too.