Why These Space Tacos Are A Major First For NASA

You read that right, space tacos. Astronauts and others at NASA have been intrigued by the idea of growing food in space for years. It's no secret that the freeze-dried astronaut food leaves something to be desired, although they do have a few fun treats, like specially-designed ramen noodle cups, tortillas engineered by Taco Bell, and even an intriguing tube borscht and rassolnik. 

It's not surprising, though, to consider that fresh fruits and vegetables would definitely be a welcome change in their diets. For the first time ever, astronauts have successfully grown peppers in space from seed to fruit, and finally gotten to enjoy their spoils with some tacos that contained freshly grown food. They grew hatch chili peppers, starting from the seeds in June, when they first began this experiment aboard the International Space Station. 

According to NASA, they chose to grow the "NuMex 'Española Improved' pepper, a hybrid Hatch pepper" because it "performed well in testing and had the makings of a viable space crop."

These hatch chili peppers are a huge step for space food

Growing plants in space has been an ongoing experiment for years. As NASA reported, astronauts began growing zinnias in late 2015, which served as a precursor to other foods, including fruit-bearing plants and other flowering crops, including peppers. This was done in an effort to establish possible food sources for long missions (per Business Insider).

"We are limited to crops that don't need storage, or extensive processing," Matt Romeyn, the principal investigator of PH-04 (NASA's plant habitat experiment), explained. Not only is growing food themselves a huge breakthrough in terms of long-lasting space travel, it also acts as a great benefit to the physical and psychological health of those onboard. "We are discovering that growing plants and vegetables with colors and smells helps to improve astronauts' well-being," said Romeyn (via NASA). 

With the success of this experiment, it could mean that growing other foods in space is possible, and may happen in the near future. We can only imagine that the peppers tasted out of this world to the astronauts.