Astronauts chow down on first food grown in space

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HOUSTON, TX-- NASA astronauts made a giant leap for mankind Monday. They ate lettuce they grew in space. Think that sounds like a small accomplishment? Think again.

"This was a big step for us. Eating something that we've grown in space is something we've never done before," says Dan Huot, NASA public affairs officer based at Johnson Space Center. "We know it's something we're gonna need to do when we're going to a place like Mars."

The red romaine lettuce they ate had been growing in the open air on board the International Space Station for 33 days.  Vegetation samples had previously been sent back to Earth to ensure it is safe.

So how does it taste? Astronaut Kjell Lindgren calls it "awesome." While Scott Kelley, who has been in space since March says it "tastes good... kinda like arugula."

"I think that's pretty amazing to have something made outside of our planetary existence," says Josh Soliz, a civil engineer visiting the JSC Tuesday. "I think that would solve a lot of problems as far as space travel if you can grow things outside of Earth."

So what's next on the menu? "Cabbage is coming up soon," says Huot. "A dwarf tomato is one of the first fruits we'll get in there. And then... things like potatoes-- things that are potentially nutrient rich, that will add a lot more to the astronauts' diet."

And they'll bring that five to 10-month manned trip to Mars that much closer to reality.

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