Russian scientists have verified that plants grown in the International Space Station are safe to eat.
When we finally set out to explore and colonize the universe for realsies, we're going to need food to eat on those long voyages into the unknown - and there's only so much astronaut ice cream a spaceship can carry. Future astronauts are going to have to grown their own food in space, and the first step is making sure space-grown food is fit for human consumption. Now, Russian scientists have done just that, deeming that a slew of vegetables grown in the International Space Station are safe to eat.
Margarita Levinskikh of the Institute of Biological Problems, told The Voice of Russia that the vegetables, which included peas, dwarf wheat and Japanese leafy greens, looked (and tasted) great. "The plants have been very developed, absolutely normal and did not differ a lot from the plants grown on Earth," she told the radio station.
"We have also gotten experience with the astronauts and cosmonauts eating the fresh food they grow and not having problems," crop scientist Bruce Bugbee added, in an email to Popular Science.
On board the ISS, vegetables are grown in a special greenhouse model named "Lada," after the Russian goddess of spring. Lada has it's own detachable "root modules," which contain enough nutrients to bear several generations of crops. When depleted, the modules are sent back to Earth, where biologists examine them to see if any harmful microbes have grown. They also check the modules and the plants' leaves for contaminants which may come from the space station's environment.
Lada is currently being repaired, but the next time they send it up there, astronauts will plant it with rice, tomatoes and bell peppers, none of which have been grown in space before.