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Why the ISS sometimes smells like the fresh produce section of a grocery store

NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 Astronauts Answer Questions After Return to Earth

SpaceX’s recently returned Crew-1 astronauts have been sharing their experiences about their six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

During a news conference streamed live online on Thursday, May 6, NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of Japan’s JAXA space agency, spent 30 minutes answering a range of questions about their time aboard the ISS as well as their experience of riding to and from the station in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon capsule.

Asked about mission highlights, Crew-1 commander Hopkins said that for him there were many, though one that really stuck out was the port relocation maneuver when the four astronauts took the Crew Dragon on a 45-minute journey to another port on the ISS to make way for an incoming spacecraft.

“It was extremely impressive to me at how smoothly that port relocation went,” Hopkins said. “It was amazing that [considering it was] the first time we’ve done this, it went according to the schedule. And you usually see some changes to the schedule — a little later here, a little early there — but it just marched right down like it was written out, and so it was extremely impressive.”

He added that the success of the maneuver was important as an increase in commercial spacecraft means the ISS will be seeing a lot of vehicle traffic in the coming years, with many more port relocation maneuvers expected as a result.

Space gardening

Asked about the space gardening experiments on the ISS involving the cultivation of edible plants to see if such crops can be grown and consumed during future missions into deep space, Hopkins was clearly delighted at achieving multiple harvests of leafy greens during his time onboard the orbiting laboratory.

“We created lettuce wraps at dinner that night and it was amazing, absolutely fantastic to have that fresh food.”

Warming to his theme, Hopkins continued: “You’d float into that module where the crops were growing, and you could just smell it, and it smelled like the fresh produce section of your grocery store. There’s something special about that — that connection to Earth that I think is pretty powerful.” He added that he believed having fresh food in space is getting close to moving from an experimental phase to being the standard.

There was plenty more that went down in the news conference, including Glover’s description of how he felt when he experienced microgravity for the first time and if it’s harder to adjust physically during the first few days in space or after returning to Earth. Hit play on the video at the top of the page to watch it in full.

The Crew-1 mission marked the first operational flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and only the second time that astronauts have traveled inside the spacecraft. The first Crew Dragon astronaut flight took place last summer, when NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken rode it to the space station in a successful demonstration mission.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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