A few days ago, we reported that NASA, along with Cornell University and University of Hawaii, was conducting a study to develop tastier food options for its astronauts in space. The good news is just out that the group of scientists, working inside Lockheed Martin’s labyrinthine building, have developed a menu for NASA’s Mars Mission in 2030. The fact that the menu has been finalized almost two decades before the Mission is to be launched does, in no way, diminish this amazing endeavor.
Working inside a building from the 1960s, the group of scientists working on this menu, have spent days measuring, mixing, stirring, and tasting food to create the Menu for Mars Mission. This menu is aimed at sustaining upto 8 astronauts on the mission. The broad variety of food under this menu is enough to keep the astronauts healthy, happy and satiated through the six months that it will take the Mission to reach Mars. In addition, the Mission will stay at Mars for 18 months before taking another half year to reach back Earth. So, in effect, the team behind this menu is putting together a plan for three-years worth of food supply for the astronauts.
Maya Cooper, senior research scientist at Lockheed Martin, explains the efforts that have gone into building this menu. She says, "Mars is different just because it's so far away. We don't have the option to send a vehicle every six months and send more food as we do for International Space Station." To keep the astronauts amused, the menu includes upto 100 or more food options, all of which will be pre-prepared and freeze-dried. The food will last for two years. Since lack of gravity in space results in the sense of smell as well as taste being impaired, the food is generally bland.
If the team of scientists is to be believed, the astronauts can do so. With a little gravity available on Mars, the scientists have also included this possibility in the Mars Menu. As a result, the astronauts can chop vegetables and indulge in brief cooking sessions too. In fact, the scientists are also hopeful of the possibility of boiling water inside a pressure cooker.
This could well be the most amazing aspect of the Menu for Mars Mission. The scientists have considered building the astronauts a "Martian Greenhouse" to take with them on this mission. At this greenhouse, the scientists can grow vegetables and fruits inside a hydroponic solution, which means they can grow things in water, instead of soil. The fruits and vegetables from this greenhouse will eventually find their way into the astronauts' meals. Cooper describes the experience, "That menu is favorable because it allows the astronauts to actually have live plants that are growing, you have optimum nutrient delivery with fresh fruits and vegetables, and it actually allows them to have freedom of choice when they're actually cooking the menus because the food isn't already pre-prepared into a particular recipe."
Since the astronauts are going to be away from Earth for about 3 years, the menu has been designed keeping in mind their health needs. The scientists have ensured that the astronauts get a proper dose of calories, nutrients, and minerals from the menu, which is essential for them to maintain an optimum physical condition. Keeping in mind the psychological health of the astronauts, the menu also involves festive foods like meatloaf and mashed potatoes and turkey for Thanksgiving festival. It is expected that having festive food on the menu will contribute to the Mission members' good moods. If you want to understand the importance of food on a space mission, read what Jerry Linenger, a retired astronaut, says about it, "You just wanted something different. I didn't care if it was something I wouldn't eat in a mission years on Earth. If it was different, I would eat it." Linenger has spent 132 days on the Russian Mir space station in 1997 and he has admitted to drinking sour milk for breakfast to maintain variety.
Cooper and the team of scientists has devised 100 recipes, all vegetarian, for the Mission. To offer variety within that, the scientists have included food items like tofu, nuts, carrots, red peppers, scallions, peanuts, and mushrooms. As a treat for the astronauts, the menu also includes a Thai pizza but with no cheese. Although, budgetary constraints plague the Mars Mission for now, the scientists are hoping that what they have planned will eventually be brought into practice when the Mission takes off in 2030.
Image Courtesy: inquisitr