Rebecca Vineyard
August 20, 2015 12:41 pm

Novelty freeze-dried ice cream may have just had its death knell tolled: in the past, an astronaut’s food options sound more like something we’d see on Fear Factor (forgive the dated reference) than meals fit for human consumption, but all that is about to change.

According to NASA, astronauts have succeeded in growing and harvesting lettuce at the International Space Station. The red romaine lettuce was picked by the crew and cleaned using food-sanitizing wipes. They then ate about half of their harvest, consuming the first space-salad (at least, the first fresh one) in history.

While this may seem like a cool novelty, the future of space travel could hinge upon the overall success of the experiment Veg-01, better known as Veggie. Veggie is dual purpose: it studies plant growth in micro-gravity environments, while also searching for ways to grow produce in orbit in the most effective way possible. After all, if humanity wants to reach further in its exploration of space—specifically to Mars—astronauts are going to need a lot more than Tang to sustain them.

Says NASA scientist Dr. Ray Wheeler: “There is evidence that supports the idea that fresh foods such as tomatoes, blueberries and red lettuce are a good source of antioxidants.” Anyone who’s gone more than a few days without fresh vegetables can attest that a person definitely feels better when they’re able to eat fresh food.

We hope astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren felt great eating the salad; after all, according to The Guardian, they even added a bit of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to the greens, so it certainly was legit. Apparently, Kelly said it tastes great and we believe him.

The plants took 33 days to grow after Kelly activated the seed pillows, which contain clay, fertilizer, and water on July 8th in a vegetable growth unit. The unit itself can be collapsed or expanded and contains red, green, and blue LED lights to simulate the sun.

“If we’re ever going to go to Mars someday, and we will, we’re going to need a spacecraft that is much more sustainable,” Kelly explains to the Guardian.

He goes on to say of the vegetable growth unit: “Having the ability for us to grow our own food is a big step in that direction.” Though, we think he means a giant step, for a space-farming mankind!

(Images via NASA)