For the first time ever, NASA astronauts on the International Space Station will sample space-grown food after harvesting a crop of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce today, August 10, from a plant-growth greenhouse system called “Veggie.”

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is one of three lucky space travelers who will be eating space-grown salad this morning.

As we continue to journey farther into space, its important for astronauts to have a sustainable and replenishing food source. According to the NASA website,

NASA is maturing Veggie technology aboard the space station to provide future pioneers with a sustainable food supplement – a critical part of NASA’s Journey to Mars. As NASA moves toward long-duration exploration missions farther into the solar system, Veggie will be a resource for crew food growth and consumption. It also could be used by astronauts for recreational gardening activities during deep space missions.

But how does food grow in zero gravity? The Veggie growth system is collapsible and expandable, and it employs a flat panel light bank that includes red, blue, and green LEDs for plant growth, and so that crew members can see the plants growing. let

Dr. Ray Wheeler, who works for the company that developed the Veggie greenhouse, tells NASA,

“There is evidence that supports fresh foods, such as tomatoes, blueberries and red lettuce are a good source of antioxidants. Having fresh food like these available in space could have a positive impact on people’s moods and also could provide some protection against radiation in space.”

Astronauts and researchers are also growing flowers in space, and will be observing how the flowers pollinate within a zero gravity state.

You can watch the astronauts on the ISS chow down on their “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce harvest this morning on NASA TV.

In the video below, Paul Zamprelli of Orbitec, the company that developed the Veggie greenhouse, describes the technology that supports plant growth.

[via NASA]