The Space Chile Challenge

Introduction to the Space Chile Grow a Pepper Plant Challenge

During our research with NASA to grow “Space Chile,” we’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 in a controlled environment or indoors, and show me how to grow them hot. Here is your opportunity to contribute to the research of growing Space Chili. 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 is working on the project with NASA, and UNM to see who can grow the hottest Space Chile in their classroom or home. Send a seed request the participating scientist and he will send you real traditional Chimayo Chili 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.

Space Chile Challange Logo

Send an email to:

Provide an address and Chimayo pepper seeds will be sent to you. "Good science practice" & teachers guides available from the Growing Beyond Earth Program.

Spaceflight plant growth hardware

How to PARTICIPATE in the challenge

  • While you 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. See Examples on the challenge Facebook page.

  • Follow the instructions to prepare your experiment.

  • Plant your seeds.

  • Document your experiment and post progress reports on the Space Chile Grow a Pepper Plant Challenge Facebook page.

  • Report your data: Your data is so important! It’s a survey, easy and fun. Each space farmer should submit (at least) one survey for an individual plant grown, ideally for the plant you took the sample from. You are welcome to submit as many plants as you like, as long as it’s honest data Copy and Paste this link into a browser

  • Red or green, mail one sample (1 pepper) to UNM for capsaicin analysis.

  • Help for using this in your class is available from our friends at the Growing Beyond Earth Program.

  • See specific instructions in the comment section or join Miss Channa's virtual class/ youtube channel below.

PlantHabitat-04: HATCH TO ISS

Growing NM peppers in a controlled environment is what NASA is working to do with the Hatch to ISS project. Hatch to ISS will grow a New Mexico Chile variety (the Espanola Improved) 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!!

Chile peppers growing at NASA KSC research base

Never grown a Chile before? Our friendly teacher Miss Channa Comer has shared the tutorial video's she's made to teacher the students in her class. Feel free to join the lesson and learn how to grow a Chile as part of"The Space Chile Challenge