Astronauts are bringing chickpeas to orbit for launch of ‘Space Hummus’

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Hummus is out of this world!

Israeli scientists are looking to grow chickpeas — the key ingredient in hummus — on the moon and planning to test hydroponic techniques for plant growth in zero gravity.

On Feb. 19, they will launch an experiment called “Space Hummus” on an unmanned craft from a NASA facility in Virginia to the International Space Station. Scientists will try growing the chickpeas in miniature greenhouses suited for travel to the moon, the next step of the mission.

They hope that this inaugural experiment controlling chickpea growth in space will ultimately lead to crop growth on the moon and Mars.

“Everybody wants to go to the moon – and even private individuals like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are talking about sending astronauts to the surface of the moon. The obvious question is, what are they going to eat?” Yonatan Winetraub, the founder of the experiment, and the co-founder of SpaceIL, the first private entity in history to reach the moon, told The Post, adding, “Where there’s hummus, there’s life.”

Scientists will conduct experiments on the ISS using special LEDs to see how well plant growth can be controlled. The goal is to maximize productivity and allow efficient management of resources on future space colonies on the moon and Mars.
Scientists will conduct experiments on the ISS using special LEDs to see how well plant growth can be controlled. The goal is to maximize productivity and allow efficient management of resources on future space colonies on the moon and Mars.
Aviv Labs

As astronauts launch more ambitious missions — to the moon and eventually Mars — Winetraub believes it “no longer makes sense to send supplies from Earth. You need to recycle, reuse and reduce and use whatever’s out there. And plants are pretty amazing at doing that.” 

The bonus of harnessing chickpeas is their superfood status: The spherical legumes are packed with nutrition, plus they are quick and easy to grow.

The scientist added that NASA has long been trying to utilize a combination of solutions that come from the natural sources.

Lead scientist Yonatan Winetraub said, "Everybody wants to go to the moon... The obvious question is, what are they going to eat?"
Lead scientist Yonatan Winetraub said, “Everybody wants to go to the moon… The obvious question is, what are they going to eat?”
Aviv Labs

“We don’t know if chickpeas can grow in space. This is something that has actually never been done before,” said Winetraub, an instructor at Stanford University who holds a Ph.D. in biophysics. “The challenge is not just how to grow as many chickpeas as possible, but how to control the way they are grown – so that we maximize our limited resources. The more we learn to grow food with fewer resources, the more prepared we will be for the challenges that await us on Earth, as well.”

Apparently not all chickpeas are created equal, and Winetraub’s team whittled down three varieties to tap the ultimate winner. “It’s really important what chickpeas you use — ones that grow fairly quickly and are resilient to the harsh conditions of space,” said the scientist of the Strauss Group-manufactured legumes that were used. The special variety grows quickly, has small seeds and takes up little space. Since there’s no soil in space, a special, nutrition-packed gel was developed for the seeds to take root in.

With the unmanned liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad-OA at NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia only days away, there’s only question that remains: can you ever really get sick of hummus? Winetraub, a die-hard fan, insisted, “Not that I’m aware of.”

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