It’s a hot day on the International Space Station. Astronauts on board the orbiting outpost have just returned from a multi-mission mission, landing in Kazakhstan Tuesday night. There is no one on board, yet the taste buds of the seven-person crew returned to Earth with them.
As told by International Space Station photo astrophotographer Jim Maas, whose images were reproduced with permission of the father of the trip, astronaut Mae Jemison.
The astronauts received some space peppers before launch. Tomatoes are traditionally used in the space station food supplies, but this time the astronauts picked two green peppers. The sauce that goes on the peppers, and the heat level of the pepper itself, can vary.
The food is actually dehydrated space peppers, made by Southern Chile Packing Company. “It’s a really sweet flavorful food — yummy pepper salsa,” one astronaut, Commander Scott Tingle, said of the food before launch.
In space, the astronauts change their diet completely. The food dehydrates, which makes it soft. “You can’t draw it from the ground,” said Doug Wheelock, the current ISS commander. “You can’t chew it. It’s as dry as possible.”
The recipe for the peppers they returned home is not available, but the company makes similar sauces: One uses chickpeas as the filler, the other uses garlic.
Once on Earth, Jemison chowed down on a fondue pot with the astronauts eating a little each of the space peppers. The aroma of fresh peppers, and the heat of the pepper sauce, were just too tantalizing for her. She felt like she needed to test her reaction after eating.
“When I held up one of the peppers, the saliva left from the food (the salt and everything) and put it on my tongue for a second,” Jemison wrote. “At that moment, I knew it was really exciting. I tasted the spicy pepper in the space sauce. It was powerful and salty.”
On Thanksgiving Day, Jemison will present the astronauts with fresh fresh peppers in an envelope, but the peppers are returned to the ISS after eating.