Astronauts taste pepper for first time in space as experiment takes off

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Twelve astronauts and cosmonauts took part in the historic trial that will be used to allow astronauts to cook up food in space

Astronauts in the International Space Station have had their first test of doing any amount of work in space – and picking a pepper.

Twelve astronauts and cosmonauts took part in the trial, using a combination of robotic devices and human assistance.

Packed in a food bowl were 10 mixed red and green peppers as well as garlic powder, salt, pepper and oils.

The astronauts were told to “on the spot, open it up and grab and grab a pepper, munch some, smell some, and then we’ll read you some conclusions in a 10-second span”.

The results of the experiment could be useful in training others to conduct experiments in space, for example.

“Since we don’t have the ability to carry food up, we have to do it in space. This is how we’re going to get there,” one of the study participants, US astronaut Nick Hague, said during a briefing.

“We think the whole world will benefit from this information,” added Nasa planetary scientist Thomas Geisbert.

Researchers say pepper – like bananas – is sweet and nutritious.

The study is part of the Fruit in Space Experiment Project (FisEP), a project launched in 2016.

Twenty different fruits were involved in the experiment, including some native to the Earth.

Agatha Gómez, a Nasa fruit specialist and co-investigator of the project, said: “We have a lot of difficult questions about what happens to fruit in space, and also fruit culture itself.”

She added: “Fruit needs to be pulped continuously to preserve it. You can do that up here. There are different temperatures and different sugars.”

The experiment also involves monitoring air quality in space.

It is hoped that this will add weight to the idea that astronauts can bring home some of their favourite foods when they visit the International Space Station.

There have been two commercial crew launches by SpaceX and Boeing.

About $200m (£149m) of those payments have gone to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and the rest are for industrial and research uses.

However, officials say little or nothing of that money has been spent on astronaut food.

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