NASA astronauts will eat space-grown veggies for the first time

NASA's space-grown red romaine lettuce

Just because you're aboard the International Space Station doesn't mean you can avoid eating your vegetables. NASA has revealed that its ISS crew will munch on space-grown veggies (specifically, the red romaine lettuce you see above) for the first time on August 10th, rather than sending the food back to Earth as it has in the past. This isn't solely to get more fiber into the astronauts' diet, of course. It'll give NASA a sense of what it's like for spacefarers to eat fresh food that has only ever experienced microgravity and artificial lighting.

This is an important step toward both a manned trip to Mars and long distance spaceflight as a whole. Real live plants should be useful as more than nutritional supplements to ready-made meals -- they can produce fresher air, and provide a psychological boost to isolated crews hoping for something that reminds them of home. There are even some potential benefits for people back on the ground, since the lessons learned on the ISS might apply to plant factories where abundant sunlight and water aren't guaranteed. Even if you never get to taste these otherworldly greens, you may still reap their rewards.

[Image credit: NASA]