NASA said it is concocting a new space food system that would offer nutritious, safe, and Earth-approved delectable dishes for long-haul space exploration.

Food scientists are collaborating on a new food system design for Mars that is quite different from those in use on the International Space Station, a NASA press release said.

Food System for Interplanetary Explorers

Food in cubes and semi-liquid tubes are things of the past. At present, ISS crew members can actually munch their favorite pizza. But, a Red Planet food system would need more intricate, meticulous planning.

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Since space explorers are beginning to become more Earth-independent, there is a need to understand how food can be produced while in space and not just bring them, food scientists said. They emphasize the necessary criteria for that interplanetary food system, as reported by Chron.

Safety - Food produced on the spacecraft and in microgravity will be mandated to undergo testing and cleaning to lessen foodborne illnesses.

Stability - Space crew on long-haul missions to Mars will have to bring or grow food that should last for years while keeping its nutrition value.

Nutrition - The food system on Mars must strike a balance between nutrition value and delicious taste.

Resource minimization - This food system should offer safe, nutritious, appetizing food while minimizing resource consumption and waste.

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly gives the thumb-up for the quality of food in the International Space Station.
(Photo: NASA via Getty Images) NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly gives the thumb-up for the quality of food in the International Space Station.

Deep Space Food Challenge

These criteria pose challenges for food system design, and the US space agency is on the lookout for ideas that would address these issues through what it calls a Deep Space Food Challenge.

Do you consider yourself as the next big chef that would whip up safe, nutritious, and delectable dishes for a Mars trip?

NASA is offering a $500,000 prize to anyone in the US who could give the best food system for its Mars mission. The initiative is in coordination with the Canadian Space Agency to come up with a novel food production system that would need minimal resources and produce the least amount of waste. This is to offer the best tasting and nutritious food for long-duration space travel, according to the NASA website.

Phase 1 of the competition would tackle food system design on the basis of adequate nutritional value for the space missions. A possible Phase 2 of the Deep Space Food Challenge would involve kitchen demonstration. The Canadian Space Agency will also hold a parallel competition for Canadian citizens, with an independent judging and application process, and prize offering.

This would help NASA in identifying food system requirements and problems that may arise once human expeditions to the Red Planet or other outer space destinations go underway, the space agency said. As such, NASA would overcome these challenges and guarantee the good health and safety of astronauts in their interplanetary exploration.

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