Scientists Explore Better Menu Options for Mars Trip

(credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Lab)

Dehydrated ice cream, sold in black and silver packages, is what comes to mind when the term "space food" is mentioned. For years, the space travel menu was the same; freeze-dried foods and powders were the typical fare for astronauts like John Glenn. Now the growling stomachs of astronauts and a new six-person mission to Mars has put the space menu under a critical eye.

Scientists at NASA's Advanced Food Technology Project at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, are focusing on a way to better feed astronauts in space.

The trip to Mars is set to take place in the 2030's and the voyage would take two and a half years. The menu would have to feed six to eight astronauts. Their top priority is making sure the food meets the specific nutrients and calorie requirements for the astronauts.

The scientists have tested hundreds of recipes, using vegetables that would come from a possible greenhouse. Dairy or meat products will not be available, so the scientists are looking at other options like tofu and nuts.

"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," Maya Cooper, senior research scientist told the AP.

The research team will also create a prepackaged menu with a five-year self life in addition to the fresh menu.

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