NASA to grow chilli peppers in space to prepare for Mars mission

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While such peppers are often lumped in with vegetables, they're actually fruits and this means the chile pepper will be the first fruit ever grown by NASA in space.

"We have been additionally in search of varieties that do not develop too tall, and but are very productive within the controlled environments that we'd be utilizing in space", NASA plant physiologist Ray Wheeler said Dylan Bida at the Rio Grande Sun. "Plus, many peppers are high in vitamin C, which is important for space diets". Although there are several species of the spicy pepper fruit, the USA scientists are going with Española peppers because they can grow in high altitudes and can be easily pollinated.

Astronauts and cosmonauts have been successfully growing plants in space stations since 1982, when the crew of the Soviet Salyut 7 spacecraft first grew the model plant Arabidopsis.

It was 2015 when American astronauts grew their version of space lettuce. But these are all botanically a part of a fruit that the ISS has been harbouring all this while. Astronauts also lose their sense of taste and have difficulty seeing in space.

As NASA looks to ship astronauts to Mars, it is crucial that the agency find plants and fruits that may travel with them.

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It's already a known fact that plants have some issues growing in microgravity because their root systems are complex and typically use Earth's gravity to orientate themselves. All this is very important for NASA's ambitious manned-mission to Mars that the astronauts will embark upon this year in November.

Wheeler explained that growing peppers might have other benefits as well, such as giving astronauts an option for spicing up their sometimes bland food options in space. Just imagine, going to the Red Planet, staying there for a while and then also having to make your way back home. Growing their own food is a pretty big priority.

Initially, the plan was to grow New Mexico's Hatch peppers until Jacob Torres, a technical and horticultural scientist at NASA, suggested growing Spanish chili peppers instead.

The researchers are working on having a variety of crops in space, particularly focusing on having a wide variety of nutrients and vitamins.

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