Anyone who has ever flown knows that the meals served on airplanes are not always the tastiest. Now a long flight, to the other side of the ocean or the world, takes an average of between 6 and 16 hours, so you only have to stow one or two of those meals. For astronauts it’s a little different. Especially now that NASA is preparing for distant space travel. Back to the moon and to Mars. The space agency wants to better feed its astronauts on those long journeys. Because, NASA claims, giving future explorers the technology to prepare nutritious, tasty and satisfying meals during extended space missions will give them the energy they need to explore the great unknown.
Deep Space Food Challenge
Developing better astronaut nutrition is a challenge that NASA, together with its Canadian sister organization (the Canadian Space Agency), is looking to get outside help for. The ‘Deep Space Food Challenge’ has been launched for this.
With the challenge, NASA aims to develop new, innovative and sustainable food production technologies that require minimal resources and produce minimal waste. Participants in the Deep Space Food Challenge are called upon to design, build and demonstrate prototypes of food production technologies that yield tangible food products or foods.
This expressly does not concern prepackaged, non-perishable foodstuffs, but the actual production of food in space. For long space trips, such as those to Mars, non-perishable foods are not an alternative because they lose their nutritional value over time.
Ten concepts for phase 2
The first phase of the Deep Space Food Challenge, launched in 2021, has delivered a total of 18 concepts for innovative food production technology that produces safe, acceptable, tasty, nutritious food products that are stable and of high quality, while minimizing the resources required. NASA and the CSA selected 10 initiatives to participate in the second phase.
In the second phase, which has now started, the developers of those concepts are challenged to put their ideas into practice. This means that the teams must build and demonstrate prototypes of their designs and produce food for assessment.