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Astronauts Chow Down Of First Salad Grown In Space

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NASA astronaut Steve Swanson holds a fistful of lettuce grown on the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Steve Swanson holds a fistful of lettuce grown on the International Space Station.

It could be the galaxy's most exciting salad ever. Call it one small bite for man.

Monday, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and his colleagues aboard the International Space Station made history by eating the first food grown and harvested entirely in space.

The red romaine lettuce was grown as part of NASA's plant experiment, called Veg-01 (aka "Veggie"), which is studying the ability to grow food in the microgravity environment of space.

Sunday, Kjell Lindgren tweeted, "Favorite payload on @Space_station is Veggie! Fun watching these grow. Almost sad to eat them tomorrow. Almost."

NASA broadcast Monday's milestone mini-meal live. Holding a single leaf and a small squeeze bottle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, Kelly exclaimed, "Bon appétit!" before he, Lindgren and Kimiya Yui "cheersed" and took their historic nibbles.

"That's awesome," said Lindgren, who harvested the lettuce from the rooting "pillows" in which the seeds were grown and cleaned it with citric acid-based sanitizing wipes before handing it out to his shuttle shipmates. Kelly commented that it tasted "kinda like arugula."

They saved a few pieces for space station commander Gennady Padalka and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, who were outside on a spacewalk at the time.

The rest was set aside to be packaged and frozen until it can be returned to Earth for scientific analysis. Plants grown on the station were studied on the ground in 2014, but were not eaten.

The purpose of the "Veggie" plant growth system is to develop the capability to grow fresh food on future deep space missions, such as to Mars.

"If we're ever going to go to Mars someday -- and we will -- whenever that is we're going to need spacecraft that is more self-sustainable in terms of its food supply," Kelly said as Lindgren worked on the lettuce. "There's going to be long periods of time (on the way to and from Mars) where we're going to have to be completely self-sufficient. Having the ability to grow our own food will be a big step in that direction."

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