Astronauts Grow Green Chiles on ISS to Make Tacos

Down here on Earth, it’s a novelty to eat freeze-dried space food. Most of us prefer the Neapolitan ice cream, but you can find everything from beef stroganoff to asparagus available to eat.

Freeze-dried foods don’t weigh much, which is an essential quality for blasting materials into space. Every extra pound equates to thousands of dollars in support work.

You’d then take a product like NutriDyn to ensure a complete nutrient profile is available when you’re in a zero-G environment. 

NASA astronauts were recently able to have their own Taco Tuesday with some hatch chiles they grew in space.

Both Red and Green Chiles Were Available to Eat

The recipe for the space tacos was relatively straightforward. Astronauts took some dehydrated beef, added some rehydrated artichokes and tomatoes, and mixed in the fresh chiles grown on the International Space Station.

Once the mix was complete, they stuck everything into a tortilla to have a special treat.

Astronaut Megan McArthur tweeted a picture of the unique tacos with the caption that they were the best ones she’s made since being in space. 

Although the fresh peppers were a treat, they came about because of some serious science. Studying how microbe and plant interactions occur in space makes it possible to grow nutritious food in limited spaces.

The fresh Hatch chiles join Chinese cabbage, kale, and lettuce as crops that astronauts could grow in orbit. With the more prolonged germination and growth times, the peppers are one of the most complicated plant experiments completed successfully.

International Space Station Faces Deteriorating Conditions

It took 42 launches to get the International Space Station to its current state. It won’t last forever, and the deteriorating conditions it faces today suggest that it might be coming down sooner rather than later. 

The massive orbiting laboratory was launched to great acclaim in 2000. It was seen as being at the pinnacle of international cooperation at the time. It needs regular boosts or fuel injection from the spacecraft that visit to keep it up there.

If those activities stop or something goes wrong, the space station will eventually fall. It is currently scheduled to continue operating until the end of 2024. NASA says they have cleared it to remain operational through at least 2028.

The ISS Offers the Same Amount of Space as a Six Bedroom Home

The space station planning process began in the 1980s. When NASA had Skylab fall out of orbit, their goal was to bring it down through the atmosphere with controlled destruction. As solar activity increased, ballooning the atmosphere to higher levels, the 80-ton lab accelerated itself toward the planet. 

Skylab chunks littered Australia, with the largest surviving piece being an oxygen tank. If the ISS were to have a similar fate, lives could be put at stake with the descent. It wouldn’t be like a nuclear catastrophe, but the debris would spread over a significant area. 

New station modules are under development as commercial interest in accessing orbital moments grows. They might solve the problem of aging space technology, but for now, we should all be thinking about how much maintenance is still needed to keep the International Space Station flying.