Two things we love here at The Spoon: space food and indoor farming tech. So I got pretty excited to come across a HoritDaily article today about Jacob Torres, who works at the Space Crop Production Lab at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and is currently researching how to grow chile peppers in space.
The idea is to eventually supply astronauts that spend a lot of time in deep space with fresher foods to accompany their packaged items. Torres is starting with peppers, which can add more important vitamins to astronauts’ diets, not to mention bring some much-needed flavor to the food.
For those peppers, Torres uses the Española Improved pepper, which performs especially well in a space environment compared to other breeds. Conducting research inside the NASA-developed Plant Growth Habitat, he is also experimenting with different light “recipes” and finding a solution to watering plants in an environment without gravity. “Existing hydroponic systems are largely inoperable in microgravity,” he told HoritDaily.
He finally settled on the Passive Porous Tube Nutrient Delivery System (PPTNDS), which forces water upwards to water the plants and, he said, could eventually be used on earth for those hard-to-reach upper levels of vertical farms that growers can’t get to as often.
An underlying goal of the project is to create an indoor grow system that needs little input from the astronauts themselves, who wouldn’t have the kind of time to devote to plant cultivation that other indoor growers have.
But back to space. One of the reasons we’re seeing an uptick in food projects beyond planet Earth is what Spoon Publisher Michael Wolf calls “the renewed interest in space travel.” NASA wants to put people on the moon again, and there’s of course interest in Mars. As Mike says, “Whether it’s the actual habitation of Mars or some other place in the galaxy, simply packing up freeze dried food won’t cut it.” And from Japan’s Space Food X initiative to space-friendly bake ovens to tomatoes, there’s a ton of companies and projects out there now figuring out how to feed people in space. Torres’ ongoing research is certainly bringing some new spice to this mix.
If you’re into space food, join us for our free live virtual event on Tuesday June 30th where we’ll talk with the inventors of the Zero G Space Oven.