What will we eat on the moon? The food is literally out of this world

Getty Images Photo of the moon on black background (Credit: Getty Images)Getty Images

Eating well is crucial for a successful space mission (Credit: Getty Images)

The moon may be humanity’s final frontier, but what will we eat when we get there? Pasta and protein bars made from scratch are just the beginning.

Space fever is approaching at warp speed. Over the next two years, NASA plans to send astronauts back to the moon via its satellite Artemis program; the International Space Station (ISS), designed to orbit Earth for fifteen years but now entering its 26th year in space, will soon to replace; and scientists are seriously exploring the possibility of human space missions. Add to this a proliferation of tourist projects that are reaching deep into the pockets individuals to the edge of space and it raises one question for a food writer like me: what will we eat when we get there?

“Food is something that keeps astronauts healthy,” said Dr. Sonja Brungs, deputy chief of astronaut operations at the European Space Agency. “Eating well, good nutrition with a lot of variety, tailored to the needs of the individual astronauts is crucial for a successful deep space mission. I think people underestimate how important it is.”

Currently, astronauts receive small food bags containing prepared meals. These meals are made by specialist food production companies and then freeze-dried, dehydrated or thermo-stabilized. Astronauts add water to heat or cool the meals; they can also bring a special meal that reminds them of home (this too should be carefully prepared and made thermostable).

There are some no-gos: anything that crumbles, such as bread, cannot be taken into space, as the crumbs can easily become airborne in a low-gravity environment, meaning they can be inhaled or get into vital equipment can come. The salt content is limited because the body stores sodium in space in different ways. leading to accelerated osteoporosisand alcohol is also not allowed as it affects the wastewater recycling system in the ISS.

ESA/Nasa ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen experimented with making chocolate mousse during his last trip (Credit: ESA/Nasa)ESA/NASA

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen experimented with making chocolate mousse during his last trip (Credit: ESA/Nasa)

“Novelty is certainly an issue,” says Brungs. “Astronauts who are in space for only six months lack crunch and texture. It is very important for mental well-being to have a variety of textures, and especially for space missions, a variety of foods to eat.”

In 2021, NASA launched a Food challenge in space to discover new ways to create food in space with limited resources, producing minimal waste while providing safe, nutritious and tasty food that can perform on a long-duration space mission.

We make food from scratch, literally – Artuu Luukanen

Solar Foods, based in Helsinki, is one of eight companies to have reached the final stage of the challenge. Their remarkable concept: using space junk to make proteins.

“We are literally making food from scratch,” said Artuu Luukanen, senior vice president of aerospace and defense at Solar Foods. His company discovered an edible microbe in rural Finland that grows by feeding on a mixture of carbon dioxide, hydrogen and oxygen. The result is a source of proteins from bacteria. The protein can be mixed with a range of flavors or textures to create different types of nutritious foods, such as pasta, protein bars, alternative meats and even an egg substitute

“We started thinking about space food because in any space habitat you have two major waste gases available: hydrogen and carbon dioxide,” Luukanen said. “So what we’re talking about here is actually not just a food production technology for space, but something that will be an integral part of the environmental control and life support system.”

NASA/Amanda Griffin The ISS has its own small vegetable garden on board where astronauts study plant growth in microgravity (Credit: NASA/Amanda Griffin)NASA/Amanda Griffin

The ISS has its own little vegetable garden on board where astronauts study plant growth in microgravity (Credit: NASA/Amanda Griffin)

Solar Foods’ proteins can be turned into a paste or powder and mixed with flour and more typical food ingredients to create protein-enriched foods such as pasta, protein bars and even chocolate. Experiments are still ongoing to discover if it can be mixed with oil and turned into something with the texture of a steak using a 3D printer.

Fresh food is also a consideration: while vitamin tablets can help, astronauts need fresh produce, and experiments are still being done growing vegetables in this unique zero-gravity, no-sunlight environment. The ISS has its own little vegetable garden on board, known as VegetarianWhere astronauts study plant growth in microgravity.

Back on earth, Interstellar laboratory has developed a modular bioregenerative system for the production of microgreens, vegetables, mushrooms and even insects on Merritt Island, Florida; the company is also a finalist in the NASA Deep Space Food Challenge Riddle of the cosmos in Melbourne, Australia, a company working on a way to efficiently grow microgreens in space.

One thing seems likely: the future of space food will include fungi. Three of the six finalists of the NASA Deep Space Food Challenge are working on ideas around fungi, among other things Mycorena from Gothenburg, Sweden, which has developed a system that uses a combination of microalgae and fungi to produce a mycoprotein (a type of protein that comes from a fungus and is often used in alternative meat products).

ESA/Nasa ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer holds a package of space food from his home region of Saarland (Credit: ESA/Nasa)ESA/NASA

ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer holds a package of space food from his home region of Saarland (Credit: ESA/Nasa)

“Fungi are very versatile,” explains Carlos Otero, who works in Mycorena’s R&D team. “It can grow on different substrates, it grows quickly and you can design a small and efficient system that can produce enough food for the crew. It is also very robust, resistant to radiation and easy to store and transport.”

This space food is all in a closed-loop circular system, with a final product that can be 3D printed to create food that looks a bit like the texture of a chicken breast. An added benefit is that their protein source contains all the essential amino acids the human body needs to function.

As the opportunities for private companies to participate in the space race increase, so do the opportunities for private chefs. Chef Rasmus Munk from Michelin star restaurant Alchemist in Copenhagen is one of many ready to go. Munk recently announced a collaboration with Space VIP to deliver an immersive dining experience on Space Perspective’s private spaceship Neptune, where tickets cost £397,000 ($495,000) per person for a six-hour journey to the edge of space.

He is one of many chefs who sees the potential in serving deep-pocketed tourists on commercial space flights. But while it’s easy to think of these developments as only for the very few who can afford such a trip (or make it as an astronaut), space food development isn’t just about what we’ll eat in the absence of gravity , but about what we will eat if there is no gravity. what we will ultimately eat on our own planet. The NASA Deep Space Food Challenge is also designed to create advanced food systems that will benefit us on Earth, enabling new opportunities for food production in extreme environments and areas of scarce resources.

Claes Bech Poulsen Chef Rasmus Munk recently announced a partnership with SpaceVIP to deliver an immersive dining experience on the edge of space (Credit: Claes Bech Poulsen)Claes Bech Poulsen

Chef Rasmus Munk recently announced a partnership with SpaceVIP to deliver an immersive dining experience on the edge of space (Credit: Claes Bech Poulsen)

“We face major challenges when it comes to climate change, especially when it comes to droughts that affect our food production capabilities,” says Luukanen. “Space puts this to the ultimate test, taking the resources considered waste from other activities and turning them into a value-added product. It is a philosophy of the circular economy. Earth is the best spaceship we’ve ever been on, and it has limited resources.”

Our project works towards efficient use of resources on Earth and in space – Kristina Karlsson

For Kristina Karlsson, head of R&D at Mycorena, the same principle applies: “Our project aims for resource efficiency on Earth and in space,” she says. “There are almost no emissions and almost no waste. Space travel is just an extreme environment in which you can challenge the development of these types of projects: if it works there, it will work on Earth.”

The third phase of NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge is underway this summer and aims to further test how these projects might work in space-like conditions. It’s something to keep a close eye on: while it’s almost certain that these new foods will be part of the nutritional profile of an astronaut in space, it also appears that they may also change the way we live on Earth in the future. will affect food.

BBC.coms The table of the world “destroys the kitchen ceiling” by changing the way the world thinks about food, through the past, present and future.

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