Astronauts on the International Space Station made history today—they were the first people to eat lettuce grown in space. Red romaine, I understand. With a little balsamic vinegar.
It took years to work out how to do it. Things gardeners take for granted like gravity, 24 hour day cycles, water, and air, are a challenge when growing vegetables in space.
So, why is it important that astronauts can eat fresh lettuce? As of yet, we’ve found nothing edible beyond our own planet. If humans are ever to spend significant time in space, we’ll need to know how to produce food wherever we are, not just for logistical reasons, but who would want to eat those nasty pre-packaged astronaut meals for years on end?
This is another example of people taking their crops with them wherever they go, as I discussed two months ago in Eating Native?
Which, of course, makes me think of how some of the foods introduced to New Zealand have become weeds and pests, damaging the native life forms. Will there someday be weeds in space? Let’s hope we’ve learned a thing or two about avoiding introducing pests before we get to that point.