- Astronauts need more calories and nutrients than a person on Earth.
- But packaged foods lose their nutritional value in space, so what will people eat on long space missions?
- Scientists have found the best food for astronauts, and it’s worth trying for yourself.
In the not-too-distant future, humans may travel to Mars or beyond. These deep space journeys will be extremely difficult – it takes at least seven months to reach Mars with current technology.
Never mind the psychological toll this could have on the astronauts’ mental health, or the physical consequences their bodies are exposed to at risk from cosmic radiation. Let’s talk about the basics: food.
Astronauts need to eat – a lot. However, long-distance space explorers will not be able to rely solely on prepackaged foods and vitamins, as they do on the International Space Station, because some of the nutrients in these products spoil after space. a year.
Moreover, because of how microgravity affects human metabolism, astronauts need more energy to function than humans on Earth. For example, a 40-year-old, 154-pound person in space might need 2,700 calories per day instead of 2,000, according to the study.
As a result, at least part of astronauts’ diets during long space missions will come from fresh, renewable produce. grew up on a spaceship.
The perfect astronaut meal: space salad
To this end, an international team of scientists calculated 10 different crop combinations that could be grown on deep space missions and published their results in the peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society. Food Science and Technology.
During the study, the researchers took into account the nutritional needs of the astronaut, how much space the plants would take up, and also the amount of water required by each plant.
“Gazanan” crop combination had the best synergy between nutrition and efficient farming.
It has high vitamin levels and consists of crops that take 50 to 100 days to grow and take up relatively little square footage. And except for the seeds, most of each plant is edible.
Scientists have developed a recipe for a vegetarian space salad using only the combinations they have won, I tried it myself.
I decided to prepare the dish and figure out for myself how to prepare this space salad of the future. I was surprised how tasty it was.
The recipe is designed to meet the nutritional value for three male astronauts and offers about 900 calories per serving. Based on the research, the list of these items.
You will need:
642 grams of sweet potatoes (about 5 small potatoes)
223 grams of pearl barley (about 1 cup)
155 grams of poppy seeds
79 grams of cabbage
63 grams of soy
25 grams of peanuts
18 grams of sunflower seeds
Study co-author Volker Hessel, a professor of sustainable chemical engineering at the University of Adelaide, said an astronaut could eat this food as part of a meal once a week.
I could definitely see myself eating space salad often. The salad was easy to make and took about 30 minutes from prep to plate. Plus, all that protein filled him up.
Long space flights require a special diet
The authors of the study developed it based on the space salad NASA nutritional guidelines using computers to calculate the most nutritious, resource-efficient combination for long space travel. Business Insider reached out to NASA’s Space Food Systems Laboratory for comment, but did not receive a response.
Along with more energy, astronauts will also need certain vitamins, such as calcium and magnesium, to prevent their skeletons from collapsing under zero gravity. They also need potassium for homeostasis, which balances and stabilizes all body systems.
Now thankfully Research from the International Space Station shows that the nutrient content of space-grown crops is typically close to that of their Earth-bound relatives.
Therefore, we can roughly calculate how much nutrition astronauts will gain from eating this space salad.
For example, in one serving of space salad:
52 g of poppy seeds containing 749 mg of calcium (62% of the recommended daily intake for astronauts)
214 g Sweet potatoOffering 807 mg of potassium (17% of the daily intake)
74 g of barley, which provides 16 mg of magnesium (4% of the daily intake).
But of course, not every astronaut will need the same diet.
The scenarios in the study were designed for male astronauts only. Female astronauts will have different requirements for nutrients such as magnesium and iron.
Therefore, the authors said they plan to amend their diet plans to include female astronauts in future studies.
Complicating matters further, Hessel said each team member’s body will react differently to the stresses of space.
Moreover, an astronaut’s nutritional needs may change during the journey.
For example, when an astronaut spends an hour outside the ISS performing a non-vehicular activity, NASA’s 2020 nutrition guidelines They are recommended to eat an extra 200 calories that day.
The computer simulations in the study should be able to design new diets as needed. “We can make recommendations for new requirements practically the same day,” Hessel said. But a shuttle’s food supply must be flexible enough to accommodate these changes.
What about the meat?
Meat lovers needn’t worry: the future of space doesn’t have to be vegetarian. Former astronaut dishes include dehydrated shrimp cocktail, beef brisket and even teriyaki chicken.
Future space explorers can eat a lot of lab-grown meat, which is currently in the middle of the FDA approval process and could soon be available in restaurants.
Scientists are also working on it to raise fish in space so that astronauts can eat fresh meat. The authors of the study say that fish could be an ideal part of the space ecosystem because astronauts can feed them excess plant material and then collect their feces for fertilizer.
If you want to add meat to your cosmic salad, I’d recommend pairing it with a lighter option like chicken or tuna. But if your astronaut heart yearns for more exploration, you can try any salad toppings of your choice.