Space food for astronauts tastes better and is now healthier than ever before due to significant food science developments. However, a new study in the Journal of Food Science (JFS) published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) highlights the challenges that need to be addressed so that astronauts can travel to Mars and beyond.
Without an adequate food system, it is certain that space crew members' health and performance would be compromised. The study authors, who are from NASA, Lockheed Martin and North Carolina State University, explain that the food developed for long-duration missions must:
- provide the nutrients and taste acceptability to sustain crew health and performance
- have a shelf life requirement of 3-to-5 years with sustained vitamin delivery
- be safe after cooking and processing in partial gravity
- be formulated and packaged in such a way that the mass and subsequent waste is within the allowable limits of proposed future space vehicles.
This article provides a brief review of research in each area, details the past Advanced Food Technology Project (AFT) research efforts, and describes the remaining gaps that present barriers to achieving a food system for long exploration missions. According to the study authors, it is clear that a balance must be maintained between use of resources (such as power, mass, and crew time), and the safety, nutrition, and acceptability of the food system in order to develop adequate NASA food systems for future missions.
"If we go to Mars, we need a five year shelf life of food and that means we need to start looking at new technologies to start preserving the food," said Michele Perchonok, Advanced Food Technology Manager at NASA and one of the study authors
- Maya Cooper, Grace Douglas, Michele Perchonok. Developing the NASA Food System for Long-Duration Missions. Journal of Food Science, 2011; 76 (2): R40 DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01982.x
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