How New Mexico Peppers Ended on the Space Station


A NASA mission to harvest green Hatch peppers in space may well help farmers around the world adapt their growing methods.

As the Chilean season drew to a close in New Mexico’s Hatch Valley, harvest continued 250 miles above earth on the International Space Station. In a first for space gardening, an astronaut picked exactly seven ripe peppers at the end of October. On social media, the American crew, along with their international colleagues, celebrated the harvest and shared photos and videos of the dark green fruits floating in microgravity, where people and objects appear to be weightless. They even threw a taco party seasoned by the inaugural harvest of space-grown peppers.

Their journey began in the summer when 48 chili seeds boarded a spaceship at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After entering the International Space Station, they were transferred to an oven-sized growth chamber, where LaShelle Spencer, head of the project’s science team, and his colleagues at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA) remotely controlled lighting, temperature and irrigation. Over the course of a few months, the astronauts on board pruned the plants, cleared the debris and managed the miniature chili field.

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