There are no restaurants or convenience stores between Earth and Mars. This means astronauts will have to pack their food for the history-making trip to Mars in the 2030s. And since a cooler won’t cut it on the spaceship, the meals are already being planned for this epic trip.
Maya Cooper is a senior research scientist at Lockheed Martin and she recently gave an interview to NPR’s Audie Cornish on All Things Considered. She explained how she’s currently planning the Mars mission menu.
We’ve all heard of astronaut food before. It’s morphed quite a bit since the first space mission. It’s no longer specifically dehydrated foods as fresh fruit and veggies are acceptable options along with other more familiar choices, like beef jerky. However, all of the foods are not going to work for the Mars mission as it simply won’t last long enough.
The Mars mission will take over 2 years round trip. Six months to travel from Earth, a year and a half on Mars, and another six months to travel back. Currently the foods used only last about two years and they will expire before the trip is complete.
Cooper has narrowed down the solutions to three options:
- Have the astronauts grow their own food on the ship. They would use a hydroponic system that involves a nutrient solution instead of soil for the plants to grow.
- Use the current food, yet find a way for it to last longer. She’d like the packaged products to last about five years versus the current two.
- Use a combination of both the greenhouse and prepackaged foods. This would the astronauts to add a prepackaged meat to a freshly grown vegetable. The greenhouse option alone presents more risks of a food shortage, this option seems to be safer.
Cooper is also very conscious that in all this planning she considers the types of food the astronauts may want. The concept of food and emotions is very central to her meal planning. Currently the typical daily menu of an astronaut might include pancakes, tofu bacon, or scrambled eggs for breakfast. Tomato salad, soup, and maybe sweet potato fries for lunch. Dinner may consist of tofu mushroom stroganoff, spinach bread, and dessert. Desserts may be coffee cake or lemon cake.
Cooper is sure to include various comfort foods for the astronauts as they travel so far from home. The travelers will find garlic mashed potatoes and peanut butter cookies from time to time just to give them a pleasant taste of planet earth.
The mission doesn’t launch for another 15 years or so, but this crew has a fantastic ground control crew already looking after their every need. Sounds like they’ll be managing this space voyage better than most of us do on our simple road trips.
image via usatoday.com
July 26th, 2012