As part of the effort to develop crops to support deep space exploration, NASA will be growing New Mexico chile in the International Space Station in 2020.
NASA Science Expert on Space Crop Production Matthew Romeyn explained that in 2017, after an expressed interest from the crew, they began to select the best chile or pepper to send to space.
“There is a lot of ground work that needs to be done to screen and prepare crops for space, so we did a lot of that screening in 2018-2019, and in fall of 2019 we got word from the ISS program office that they wanted to make a strong push to get a pepper in space, and loved the fact we were zeroing in on a New Mexico chile for the first technical demonstration,” Romeyn said.
After screening the chile against several other types of peppers the New Mexico chile was approved for several reasons. One such reason was the desirable flavor in the green fruit stage, which is essential in a small growing area on the space craft. Another key factor was the plant’s resilience, water control has proven to be a major obstacle in microgravity so the fact that this type of chile can handle drought events well and actually enhance its flavor was a major plus.
NMSU freshman Reagan Davis was said he was pleasantly surprised when he heard it was New Mexico Chile NASA had chosen to grow at the space station: “I would think that would be a good thing for New Mexico because it would put us somewhere in space and it would also show that New Mexico is a place that people can rely on for their chile and that’s really good,” Davis said. “There’s not a lot of water in space so I would say that would also probably be one of the biggest contributors to growing our chile in space.”