In a rather science fictional moment, the Expedition 44 crew members on the International Space Station are about to eat the very first space crops. On Monday, a batch of red romaine lettuce will be harvested from the Veggie plant growth system on the ISS orbiting laboratory. Cosmically delicious.
It’ll probably be the most scientific harvest festival the human race has ever seen. The astronauts will carefully clean the greens with citric acid-based sanitizing wipes before dividing the spoils precisely in half. One half of the space bounty will be eaten fresh, while the other will be packaged, frozen, and shipped back to Earth for scientific analysis.
The lettuce seeds were planted on July 8th by astronaut Scott Kelly. By harvest, they’ll have spent 33 days growing inside Veg-01, a light bank that includes red, green and blue LEDs. Red and blue light are the two most important parts of the spectrum for photosynthesis. Green light is actually rather useless, but even in space, food aesthetics matter. To avoid producing crazy purple space plants, the engineers behind Veg-01 decided to add green to the mix.