The inexperienced chilli from New Mexico is now rising in house
More precisely, it is the “Española Improved” pepper – a cross between the Sandia pepper and the traditional Española pepper.
“The thought was that if we had a pepper that grew up in the north, where winter comes earlier, the pepper would ripen faster,” said Jacob Torres, a scientist in technical plants.
The four chilli plants were grown from seeds on board the International Space Station. They grow in a fired clay which, in microgravity, enables a perfect mixture of air and water in the root zone.
“Water moves a little differently in zero gravity and can either drown the plant completely or dry it out,” said senior horticultural scientist LaShelle Spencer.
It was a long process to select and disinfect the seeds, but to this day, after 93 days of growth, the plants are planting chilli and now have a total of 20 fruits on the four plants. The first harvest should be done in just 20 days.
“We’re excited about this because Megan and the crew, who have been so diligent in tending our crops, we’ll be able to harvest before they leave and hopefully try the fruits of their labor, and then the final harvest will be on day 140.” said Spencer.
Megan Mcarthur is a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station and helps with the manual pollination of these plants.
Here is one of the reasons why they do this:
“Ultimately, we want to be able to supplement the diet of astronauts on space missions and later missions to the moon and Mars,” said Torres.
It also brings a link back to Earth for the astronauts from more than 200 miles away.
“Although it’s very stressful, the greatest joy I’ve had was seeing the crew open that door and smell them on these plants and how their face lights up when interacting with these plants and how we feel a bit of home up there have brought to this very sterile environment, “said Spencer.