NASA is searching solutions for astronauts food in space and need suggestions from people. The Agency is currently crowdsourcing solutions through its Deep Space Food Challenge which is open to all U.S. citizens and ends July 30, 2021. Although humans have maintained a continuous presence in space for 20 years aboard the International Space Station (ISS), food hasn’t proven an issue as the station orbits a mere 220 miles above our terrestrial home. Things will be different when humans will be on Mars. The time and distance required for the expedition will make regular resupply infeasible. “In the history of humankind, explorers set off to see what was over the horizon, and literally millions did not return because of food and nutrition failures,” Grace Douglas, NASA’s lead scientist for advanced food technology at Johnson Space Center in Houston observed.
Spaceflight offers an environment with microgravity, scarce resources, cabin pressure fluctuation, and unmitigated radiation, each adding their own variable to the cooking calculus. So, in fact is difficult. Until now, space food preparation has been limited to adding water or heating pre-packaged foods. Any viable solution for the future must provide safe, stable, palatable, and reliable food, while also overcoming environmental constraints, using minimal resources, and producing minimal waste. NASA is offering a $500,000 prize purse for viable solutions.