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What To Eat In Space, The Quest Continues

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Space food 1When astronauts go into outer space, they take with them food items like powdered eggs and dehydrated fruits, which they eat throughout their trip in the space. Such trips can run into months at times, so you can understand how it must be for the astronauts to eat in space. With time, they get bored with eating the same stuff and crave for something new. A few years ago, there was talk of some Indian sweets being also sent on a space mission, but that was the end of it. Now, all that is going to change as NASA is working on something to create a wider variety of food options for the astronauts. Read on to know more about this ambitious study.



Menu Fatigue



If you were asked to eat just a few foods continuously for months, would you do so? Well, that is why the astronauts also do not want to go on eating the same food and in the end, start suffering from menu fatigue. Just surviving on just-add-water meals gets boring, doesn’t it? This type of fatigue has emerged as a challenge for people involved in making the lives of astronauts comfortable in space. It is important to do so because if astronauts start skipping their meals, they will risk muscle and bone loss. Earlier space missions had crew members surviving on a diet of limited liquid or paste foods and their taste left much to be desired. Although, things have changed to a large extent since those earlier space missions, there is still need for some more variety. Kim Binsted, an associate professor of information and computer sciences at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, is part of a study to search for better food options for astronauts to escape the menu fatigue. Kim says about the effort, “We need to figure out the best way to feed astronauts on long-term missions.” Fortunately, the mission is about to be accomplished. NASA has already been involved in projects seeking to improve the space menu for astronauts.



The NASA Study Space food 2



The study, commissioned by NASA and sponsored by Cornell University as well as the University of Hawaii, will be undertaking the mission called “HI-SEAS”. The mission is named Hawaii Space Exploration Analog & Simulation (HI-SEAS). This mission has been started to develop tastier food options for the space crews, which should also offer variety and nutrition to the men. There will be six crew members, selected by NASA, who would be sent on a simulated Mars mission during which the members would also be testing out options regarding astronauts cooking for themselves. The Mars mission will be launched in early 2013. Those who would go on this mission include scientists, a professor, and a journalist. The NASA had invited applications from experts who wanted to participate in this simulated mission. The team selected for the mission has already been given training and preparation, comprising of “team-building exercises, academic preparation, sensory testing, and cooking lessons.”



Getting Creative in Kitchen



This may sound like an unlikely preparation for a space mission (simulated as it is), but Rupert Spies, chef and senior lecturer at the Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, is working with the crew members to teach them skills required to get creative in the kitchen. The members are being taught, not just to fashion our sushi with hands but also to make a variety of other dishes like paella, croissants, and pizza, with fresh as well as canned ingredients. While working with canned ingredients, as would be important for a space mission, the members said that the resulting dishes “tasted amazing.” One of the crew members on this mission is Oleg Abramov, who works as a research space scientist with the US Geological Survey’s Astrogeology branch in Arizona. Abramov is surprisingly upbeat about this mission as he chirped, “I was really impressed with how much culinary creativity is possible without fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy. Before this workshop, if I had been presented with the apple pie that we made, I would never have guessed that it was made with dehydrated apples.”



Space food 3More Training



All said and done, learning how to cook with canned ingredients would be the least difficult part of the training for these crew members. Planned ahead is a trip to a barren lava field in Hawaii, to take place next year. In the lava field, the members would be living in a simulated Martian base, where they will carry out food-related experiments. To make this simulated experience as close to reality as possible, the crew members will be communicating with people outside after a delay of 20 minutes, as happens when a space mission is in space. About this aspect of training, Abramov said, “In effect, we will be limited to e-mail as our primary means of interaction with the outside world, which I anticipate will be our greatest challenge.”



The astronauts should eat four meals a day, which includes first and second breakfasts, lunch, and supper and their total intake of calories has to be about 3,200 per day. The NASA mission would take care of the calories and vitamin content while keeping in mind variety of tastes. While there is still time before the mission goes underway, it is hoped that it would result in some tasty outcome for the astronauts. Can we hear the cheers already in the outer space?


Image Courtesy: spacefeelings

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What To Eat In Space, The Quest Continues