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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Got a recipe for Mars? A space food study wants your recipes

Got a recipe for Mars? A space food study wants your recipes

Photo courtesy of HI-SEAS

What's in a Mars space station pantry? A nice selection of grains, from farro to quinoa to masa; a variety of canned meats, including eel; vegetarian fake meats such as bacon and beef; and a bunch of spices including harissa and char siu seasoning. There's even freeze-dried poi and truffle oil.

Well, at least that's what's in the pantry in a simulated Mars habitat on Big Island. Currently, the HI-SEAS (for Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) mission is trying to figure out how best to feed astronauts on long-term space explorations.

It turns out, even astronaut ice cream gets boring after a while. Astronauts want to cook from scratch. Maybe.

Crewmembers in the HI-SEAS food study will compare two food preparation strategies. One way is how astronauts do it now—heat and eat, or just add water to freeze-dried food like soups and chili. The other way is, well, actually cooking. The former, as anyone who's made instant ramen knows, is easy to prepare, eat and clean up. The latter requires more time, energy, equipment to prepare and water (a scarce resource in space) for cleanup. But, there may be benefits. Apparently, food boredom is a problem among astronauts for whom freeze dried beef stroganoff just isn't cutting it anymore, leading to malnutrition. Researchers speculate that cooking meals could help fight this, as well as lead to higher morale, improved productivity, better health and more crew cohesion. For those who believe the world would be a better place if everyone just cooked more, maybe they've been setting their sights too low. Space could be better, too. 

But who knows, as some harried families can attest to, maybe cooking will just be a chore and waste of energy.

So what are they planning to cook in space anyways? Part of this Cornell University and University of Hawaii study includes a recipe contest. Think you've got an awesome recipe that would be great in space? Then take a look at the HI-SEAS ingredient list and prove that you've got an out-of-the-world dish. You may never make it to Mars, but maybe your recipe for eel casserole will.

Recipe deadline is March 8, visit hiseas.org for more info.

Posted on Thursday, February 7, 2013 in Permalink

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About This Column

From five-star restaurants to hidden holes-in-the-wall, Biting Commentary will let you know what’s hot and what’s not. Find out the latest restaurant news—who’s opening, who’s closing, which chef is moving on, where the great special dinners are. Discover the best menu items, fabulous wines, stunning cocktails, hand-crafted beers. Be the first to hear about upcoming food events and festivals.

Food editor Martha Cheng graduated from Wellesley College with degrees in Computer Science and English. She's a former line cook, food truck owner, Peace Corps volunteer and Google techie. Follow her on Twitter @marthacheng.



 

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