Astronauts to Chow Down on First Food Grown in Space

Today's ISS salad comes with romaine lettuce and a citric-acid-sanitizer dressing
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2015 11:00 AM CDT

In May, the first fresh cup of coffee was brewed on the International Space Station. Today, ISS astronauts will enjoy another fresh debut: a meal made with the first food grown in outer space. On the menu will be a salad made out of microgravity-grown romaine lettuce, washed with a citric acid sanitizer before the dinner bell, Sky News reports. Half of the lettuce will be devoured by the crew, while the other half will head back to Earth so scientists on the ground can check it out. Growing the red lettuce—nicknamed OutREDgeous by NASA scientists—was no small feat, the Escapist notes: When there's zero gravity, water doesn't seep into the soil, dirt can just float away, there's limited sunlight, and the roots don't know which way to grow since there's no traditional "up" or "down."

The astronauts overcame these challenges by packing special "pillows" with soil, seeds, and stakes to help guide root and plant growth, per the Escapist; the pillows were then placed underneath blue, red, and green LED lights—the green light to turn the romaine the dark-red color that people are accustomed to, Sky notes (check out the NASA video that further explains the process). There are some fringe benefits from space-garden fare other than a delicious meal: A NASA behavioral health scientist tells Sky that gardening could help astronauts cut their stress levels, while a Kennedy Space Center scientist says that "having fresh food … in space could have a positive impact on people's moods and also could provide some protection against radiation," per ZME Science. (Maybe we could even make tires out of the space lettuce.)

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