Astronauts have grown chile peppers in the International Space Station’s Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) for the first time. These peppers can help provide the crew with vitamin C during long flights in space.

Chile peppers are grown as part of the Plant Habitat-04 experiment, which began in July 2021. The first flowers bloomed in September, followed by the first crop which resulted from self-pollination.

To encourage pepper pollination, NASA engineers tweaked the APH air conditioning system to mimic a gentle breeze in microgravity. The ISS crew also hand-pollinated some of the flowers.

NASA notes that there is little research into fruit development in microgravity, even though they are vital for long-term space flights as a source of food and vitamins for the astronauts.

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This experiment is important because NASA plans to explore the Moon and Mars and knows that astronauts will need to grow their own food to support long missions far from home.

According to the plan, the astronauts aboard the ISS will harvest the first crop of chile peppers at the end of October (at 100 days) and the next in early November (at 120 days).

Astronauts will eat some of them right on the International Space Station, while the rest of the crop will be sent to Earth for analysis.