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Fresh Chiles Spice Up Taco Night


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Astronaut Raja Chari is ready for taco night
Astronaut Raja Chari is ready for taco night as he shows off a taco made with fresh chile peppers.
NASA/Kayla Barron

Taco Night on the International Space Station had a little kick to it on Nov. 26, 2021. In this image taken by NASA astronaut Kayla Barron, fellow NASA astronaut and Expedition 66 flight engineer Raja Chari smiles as he shows off a taco that includes fresh chile peppers.

The peppers were harvested from inside the International Space Station’s Advanced Plant Habitat, which started growing four months prior as part of the Plant Habitat-04 experiment. Astronauts on station and a team of researchers at Kennedy worked together to check the peppers’ growth. This was one of the longest and most challenging plant experiments tried aboard the orbital lab.

Starting in late 2015 and going into early 2016, astronauts grew zinnias on station – a precursor to growing longer-duration, fruit-bearing, flowering crops like peppers. Researchers spent two years evaluating more than two dozen pepper varieties from around the world. They narrowed it down and selected the NuMex ‘Española Improved’ pepper, a hybrid Hatch pepper, the generic name for several varieties of chiles from Hatch, New Mexico, and the Hatch Valley in southern New Mexico. This pepper performed well in testing and had the makings of a viable space crop.

Image Credit: NASA/Kayla Barron

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