Where No Taco Has Gone Before: NASA Astronauts Eat Space Tacos … for Science

Try this combination next time you order tacos: Fajita beef, rehydrated tomatoes and artichoke, and experimental space-age hatch chiles

Megan McArthur/NASA

Have you ever had an extreme taco craving but needed a space rocket to get back to San Diego and order from your favorite spot?

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, a UC San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography alumna who left Earth in April for a six-month stay at the International Space Station, didn’t let space stop her from getting her fix.

On Friday, McArthur tweeted out photos of her flour tortilla-wrapped masterpiece from low orbit -- the star ingredient being experimental, first-of-their-kind space peppers.

The peppers, hatch chiles to be exact, were the fruit of NASA’s Plant Habitat-04 (PH-04) experiment, one of the most complex growing experiments ever done on the ISS because of how long it takes peppers to grow, according to NASA.

“In preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond, researchers are developing ways to sustain explorers for missions to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit including Mars, missions that may last for months or even years and have limited opportunities for resupply missions,” NASA said.

McArthur and her crew stuffed some of the peppers in their tacos and will send the rest back to Earth for analysis (flavor analysis, probably). And something McArthur didn’t mention -- but probably realized soon after biting into her dinner -- is that if you’re eating tacos without gravity and some of the goodies fall out, you can easily catch them with your tortilla without getting any on your spacesuit.

On her way to the ISS, McArthur piloted the SpaceX Dragon alongside NASA commander Shane Kimbrough, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet. If they weren’t already, her space mates are sure to be taco fans now.

McArthur getting her hands on a plate of tacos while in space shouldn’t surprise anyone -- she has a history of getting luxury foods (by space standards) to the ISS. She celebrated her 50th birthday in August with ice cream and other treats, thanks to a SpaceX cargo delivery.

“No one’s ever sent me a spaceship for my birthday before,” McArthur radioed after the capsule arrived. "I appreciate it."

NASA said researchers at Kennedy spent two years testing more than two dozen pepper varieties from around the world before they landed on hatch chiles, which is a generic name for green chile peppers from Hatch, New Mexico, and the Hatch Valley in southern New Mexico.

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