During my research with NASA to grow “Space Chile,” I’ve encountered one issue;  Indoor and hydroponically, how do you grow the flavor and heat into the pepper like New Mexico chile reliably and consistently? 

I need your help! Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to grow a pepper plant indoors, and show me how to grow them hot. Here is your opportunity to make a contribution to the research of growing Space Chile.

Who can grow the hottest Chile using methods NASA would use to grow peppers in Space, on the Moon, or on Mars?

Participate with a scientist who works with NASA, and UNM to see who can grow the hottest Space Chile in their classroom or home. Send a request to the contest organizers and they will send you real traditional Chimayo Chile seeds from the Martinez family. The Martinez Chimayo Pepper is a candidate crop for space flight being grown at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

You will have the opportunity to follow the horticultural recommendations provided to grow red or green Chile. Once you’ve grown your Chile, send a sample to UNM to be tested for capsaicin. Capsaicin is the compound within peppers that give it its spiciness. The submission that records the highest capsaicin level is truly a pepper out of this world and wins the hottest Space Chile title for 2020.

Hatch to ISS

Growing NM peppers in a controlled environment is what NASA is trying to do with the Hatch to ISS project. Hatch to ISS will grow a New Mexico Chile variety on the International Space Station (ISS) in the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH).

Growing a plant that has evolved outside in its natural habitat using artificial lighting and hydroponics is a challenge. You can contribute to this research by growing your own Space Chile plant in a pot and soil, Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) style in a growth media, or in a hydroponic cup, indoors! Document your scientific method along the way and post updates to The Space Chile Challenge Facebook Page! You and your friends can be space farmers too!!

How to Participate in the Challenge

  • Send an email to jtatnasa@aol.com. Provide an address to have Chimayo pepper seeds sent to you.
  • While your are waiting for your seeds: decide which growth method is best for you: a pot and soil (easy), APH style (in a growth media), or hydroponic cup (intermediate/hard). I recommend that you try multiple methods.
  • Follow the instructions to prepare your experiment.
  • Plant your seeds.
  • Red or green, mail one sample (1 pepper) to UNM for capsaicin analysis.
A hydroponic cup with a Martinez Chimayo Pepper plant growing in it. I used a plastic soda cup and lid that I had lying around. Hung a plant growth LED light, and used a aquarium air pump to aerate the nutrient solution. See the “Growing a Space Pepper Plant Hydroponically” document included below for more details.

How to do it:

Using my experience and actually trying the challenge myself, I documented a few things for participants to gain inspiration from while setting up their Space Chile Grow a Pepper Plant Challenge hardware. These documents are provided below.

The Space Chile Grow a Pepper Plant Challenge Description https://1drv.ms/b/s!Apd4AFcNZEUkg4AzWvraxSrhphx6Eg?e=ajAKSZ

Growing a Pepper Plant in a Pot and Soil (Easy) https://1drv.ms/b/s!Apd4AFcNZEUkg4A1t2Vw-Rz2HMx5dw?e=kLNxam

Growing a Space Pepper Plant Hydroponically (Medium/Hard) https://1drv.ms/b/s!Apd4AFcNZEUkg4A2sYSwceq7q_6VCQ?e=AxkdP3

Grow Your Space Pepper Plant APH Style (Medium/Hard) https://1drv.ms/b/s!Apd4AFcNZEUkg4A0ZYaUu01iJDcSnA?e=tNrw6r

In preparation for this challenge I grew multiple pepper plants using various method’s. I recommend that you grow multiple pepper plants using various methods as well. Grow at least one in a pot and soil and use that as your control plant.

These are three pepper plant growth methods initiated in preparation for this challenge. pot and soil (left), Hydroponic Cup (Middle/Right).

The Space Chile Grow a Pepper Plant Challenge Facebook Page; Post your progress here for the space farming community to see. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SpaceChileChallenge/

Request your seeds: jtatnasa@aol.com

The Space Chile Grow a Pepper Plant Challenge is a collaboration between Professor Dr. David Hanson of UNM Department of Biology and Jacob Valencia Torres Research Scientist at NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida.