What does food in space taste like?


Does one's taste change while in space? What is the role of food in an isolated and confined evironment? These are questions an upcoming Cornell and University of Hawaii study hopes to answer, in response to frequent astronaut complaints about bland space food (you mean five years of astronaut ice cream just doesn't cut it?)

The study is looking for participants in a 120 day Mars exploration analogue mission, simulating "the living and working experience of astronauts on a real planetary mission and to compare two types of food system – crew-cooked vs. pre-prepared."

A couple of interesting notes in the study background:

  • "Anecdotal evidence indicates that menu fatigue may be less significant when food is cooked fresh on site rather than simply rehydrated. With the right ingredient set and some skill and creativity in the kitchen, an almost infinite variety of foods can be produced, providing planetary explorers with a nutritionally balanced diet customized to their evolving needs and likes. Moreover, preparation of food is an important part of every human culture, with psychological value for both the crew and the cook." (Emphasis added.)
  • "The major disadvantage of cooking on a space mission is the cost of resources required for food preparation and cleanup: equipment, power, water, and crew labor…little is known about the break-even point in crew size, at which cooking would become more labor-efficient than eating instant foods out of individual packages."

It seems this study’s conclusions could be useful for us non-astronauts as well. Eight applicants will be chosen for the study, which takes place early 2013 on Big Island. Deadline to apply is Feb 29. See manoa.hawaii.edu/hi-seas/ for more information.