NASA Astronauts Eat Space Vegetables Grown In Orbit For The First Time & Gave Them A Surprising Review

Astronauts on the International Space Station had a tasty dinner on Monday: a romaine salad, lightly tossed with oil and balsamic vinegar. The meal was simple, but the implications certainly were not. This week, NASA astronauts ate space vegetables. It was the first time in history that live produce was grown above Earth's atmosphere. (Whoa.) The historic meal, which got a pretty decent review, added a necessary food staple to what is usually a pretty limited menu.

NASA launched its Advanced Food Sustainability Project more than three years ago, with the goal of providing more sustainable, nutritious food aboard space missions while minimizing waste and space concerns. According to NASA, the current system of prepackaged foods was costly and ill-suited for long space missions. According to a NASA abstract on this project, they've been exploring ways to incorporate "freshly grown crops and bulk packaged ingredients such as wheat berries" so that astronauts can grow food themselves while on long missions. That means that some of the old freeze-dried favorites from older space missions will soon be a thing of the past.

By growing veggies in space, NASA would save on energy, storage, and waste, said science and technology journalist Neel Patel in his report for Inverse.com. In his analysis, Patel argues that astronauts have just 32.85 square feet of space in which to store the seven gallons of water each crew member uses in a day, the half pound of food they split each day, and everything necessary for the mission. Each pound of food costs NASA $10,000 to send to space, according to the Christian Science Monitor. It's no wonder so much astronaut food is freeze-dried for use with recycled water.

NASA has already taken steps to replace many of the older pre-packaged items on the astronaut's menu. Here are a few that will almost certainly not be missed.

Borscht In A Tube

Yes, Russian astronauts can say goodbye to tubed Borscht once they can grow and store their own beets in space.

Astronaut Ice Cream

Once fresh fruit is an option, the NASA crew will probably opt for healthy desserts over the notorious styrofoam taste of astronaut ice cream.

Tang Powdered Drink Mix

Some of the astronauts might have grown up drinking the stuff, but once fruit juices are on the menu, we'll probably see a lot less Tang on space missions -- that is, if juicers are allowed.

But of course, the biggest question was: How did the first space lettuce taste? According to CBS News, astronaut Scott Kelly was among the first to eat the harvest -- a bundle of red romaine lettuce leaves grown using NASA's new, low-cost hydroponics system. The lettuce leaves were "washed" with sanitizing wipes, according to CBS, and taste-tested. Then, the crew prepared a simple salad and tucked in. In a video broadcast from the ISS, Kelly gave the lettuce a decent review:

It tastes good. It kind of tastes like arugula.

That might be the best review ever given to astronaut food. Or to arugula, for that matter.

Images: Chris Radcliff/Flickr