Packed supplies for longer journeys in space will not be enough. Scientists are looking for ways to grow fresh fruits and vegetables outside Earth so people can be sent to Mars. NASA will test the breeding plant at the International Space Station in spring 2020.

Crop Criteria

Growing crops outside the Earth’s atmosphere is not an easy task. Plants must be easy to pollinate and withstand high levels of carbon dioxide. Scientists have found that pepper cultivars are a good choice. They chose a New Mexican chili pepper hybrid.

NASA scientists plan to grow the first crop outside the Earth’s atmosphere. During an internship at NASA, trainee Jacob Torres found that scientists were studying Hatch peppers from New Mexico. Torres suggested looking at Espanola peppers instead.

Meanwhile, that of Hatch peppers in the New Mexico deserts, the cultivar Espanola thrives well in alpine conditions and grows in relatively short time. Especially for these abilities, the Espanola variety was chosen as a great candidate for growing in space. Hybrid, which is bred from New Mexico seeds and Sandia seed, scientists named Espaňola Improved.

Green or Red?

The project lead scientist Matthew W. Romeyn shared Espaňola Improved pepper advantages in his email, he stated:

„As a bonus, the Espaňola Improved is one of the few chilli pepper cultivars from the Hatch Valley that is also regularly consumed red, so we can leave it to the crew to decide if they would like their chile peppers green or to wait for the fruit to fully ripen to red.”

Scientists have already successfully grown leafy vegetables at NASA’s equipment named Advanced Plant Habitat. Now they face the higher-level challenge of cultivation in space in the form of a fruiting plant. The first cultivation will start in March 2020. Astronauts may enjoy the presence of fresh peppers on a long Mars mission.

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