NASA-led scientists are busily prepping a menu that future explorers of Mars will be able to take advantage of. Whereas space nosh for orbit is whipped up following tight constraints and is typically bland, NASA research-chefs are able to boldly explore new territory in the realm of interstellar eats.
The space agency is loosely planning a mission that will last a year and a half on the Martian surface, with six months on either side for the journey there and back. These parameters may change — the hypothetical soujourn to Mars won't happen until the 2030s (which means NASA will probably get beaten to the punch by a reality show and the biggest Star Trek fan ever).
So, why design a menu this far out? Lockheed Martin senior research scientist Maya Cooper (above, right) and her team aren't trying to figure out how much to feed a Mars-bound crew. Instead, she's looking at what kind of nutrients they may have to work with and designing a food system that will keep them fed. Specifics about how much to carry and how much can be grown later will come next, and will inform everything from how astronauts go about their stay as Mars to the design of the spacecraft that'll take them there.
Cooper figures that Mars explorers will have a mix of crops grown on the Red Planet (in enclosed farms most likely) and foodstuffs brought from Earth. "Mars is different because it's so far away," Cooper explains. "We don't have the option to send a vehicle every six months and bring more food," which is an option available to crews on the International Space Station.
Right now, Martian cooking will take more queues from Earth than orbit, where food is dehydrated and served in packets. Consider a Thai-style pizza Cooper whipped up: it's got chopped vegetables and a liquid sauce — luxuries compared to orbital eats.
One thing it doesn't have? "The biggest difference — there's no cheese. There won't be cheese as part of the Martian diet because we won't have fresh milk or a way to sustain the cheese." Still, Cooper says the Thai pizza was well received by her panel of tasters, and that the special sauce and fresh veggies may mean Martian explorers aren't left wanting for curd. Hopefully it doesn't lead to a boycott of the mission by astronauts who hail from New York, such as Mike Massimino.
See Cooper talk about her job designing the Mars menu in the video below.
Via Washington Post and