PH-04 became the longest running experiment in the history of the International Space Station, as well as the culture produced in space that allowed most astronauts to feed.

NASA’s experiment growing hot peppers in the orbiting laboratory of the International Space Station (ISS) has broken two world records, according to a statement posted last week on its website.

Project Plant Habitat 04 (PH-04) has become the longest-running experiment in the history of the International Space Station, lasting 137 days, as well as the largest crop of astronauts ever produced in space allowed to feed.

It all started last June, when scientists shipped 48 purified hot peppers from New Mexico Hatch to the International Space Station, where they were housed in a closed growth chamber called Advanced Plant Habitat (APH). On July 12, water was added and the experiment began.

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Meanwhile, the astronauts removed all but four of the vegetation to give them enough room to grow. After several weeks, they bloomed and pollinated manually.

The first crop was harvested on October 29. Megan MacArthur, a NASA astronaut and Expedition 65 flight engineer, added peppers to a taco made with fajita meat, water-cured tomatoes, and artichokes. During the second harvest he sent 12 peppers to the ground and the rest of the crew consumed.

On November 26, Flight 66 engineer Mark Vande Hee harvested and sampled 26 types of hot peppers from the four plants grown on the International Space Station. “PH-04 has dramatically advanced technology in space crop production,” explained Matt Rumen, the principal investigator for the project at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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Upcoming Challenges

“The level of excitement about the first space and fashion nails was unprecedented for us,” he continued. “All indications are that some of the fruits were too hot, which is unexpected given the unknown effect that microgravity may have on capsaicin levels in peppers.”

Upcoming NASA experiments envision growing dwarf tomatoes and conducting a study with new types of leafy greens. They also plan to grow vegetables, legumes and micro herbs on the International Space Station in the near future.

“This test was very successful evidence that we are on the right track to be able to produce space crops,” said Romain, who explained that his goal is to produce viable and sustainable crops for future missions while humans explore the Moon and Mars.

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