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Out of this World

This space-grown lettuce could be the key to a future trip to Mars

Forget noshing on freeze-dried ice cream when up in space. On Monday, the crew of the International Space Station will taste the first-ever space-grown veggie: red romaine lettuce.

This is technically the second batch of lettuce that's been harvested since ISS started growing lettuce seeds underneath an LED light bank, but the first that astronauts will actually get to taste. The batch produced in May was sent back to Earth for tests to ensure the space vegetables were safe to eat.

So why exactly is NASA making space salads? Well, creating sustainable food is a key component in achieving the long-term goal of reaching Mars. "The crew does get some fresh fruits or vegetables, such as carrots or apples, when a supply ship arrives at the space station. But the quantity is limited and must be consumed quickly," NASA scientist Gioia Massa told Vice. Moreover, scientists believe that gardening could provide astronauts important psychological benefits during a long journey up in space.

The lettuce joins two other new space foods developed this year. In May, the first espresso was brewed in space. Earlier this month, six whiskies were sent up to space to test how it ages in zero-gravity conditions.