A different type of cooking
We all know that humans need to eat in order to survive. Our body uses food to obtain the energy and nutrients that allow us to live and grow. So, knowing this, how do we plan to cover this basic need on Mars?
To start with, we would need to provide food to cover the trip to Mars and food for the first years after arriving to the red planet. We would need for sure to grow food at some point, like astronauts on the ISS have been doing in the VEGGIE experiments onboard. More futuristically, what about even using a 3D printer to one day print our own food on Mars? Yes, that reminds me of Star Trek, but it is not something crazy, as we have proven that 3D printing works in space, after the few experiments on-board the ISS. Of course, this can be developed to print food using raw ingredients instead of ink, and who knows, maybe having the opportunity to eat a tasty pizza on Mars! 3D printing food is already a reality, but it hasn’t been tested or validated for spaceflight.
Until now, how have astronauts been eating while in space? All space meals are prepared to be stored without refrigeration to be kept for long periods of time. They also come freeze-dried or dehydrated to remove water weight so they are lighter for transportation into orbit. Taste and nutrition are also vital factors of final recipe choices for our astronauts. At the beginning of the space era, astronauts ate food from tubes that they could squeeze into their mouths. Now, astronauts have a wide selection of their favorite foods, slightly modified for spaceflight. Shrimp cocktail, peanut butter and jelly tortilla sandwiches and beef stroganoff are choice dishes of space station and shuttle astronauts.
Here on Mars, we simulate space food: freeze-dried and dehydrated veggies, fruits, meats, eggs and cereals. A crew before us even came up with the idea to print a book with recipes from the Mars Desert Research Station. Eventually, we need to come up with some creative ideas to avoid getting bored. Our commander has even been able to bake Martian bread and create some awesome lunches including burritos, chicken salads, and our favorite breakfast: bacon and eggs.
To cook, we need to add some water to rehydrate the food and then warm it for a while. We even have dehydrated cheese that just by adding water can taste like Earth cheese. We simulate eating as an astronaut on Mars would, adding water and warming our food in a small oven. Fortunately, we have all sorts of condiments and seasonings like salt, pepper, lemon powder, and chili powder to make Martian food more flavorful. But yes, at some point you kind of start missing fresh food. To drink, we have pink lemonade powder, tea, coffee, milk powder and normal water. As water is a limited resource, we need to be very conscious of how to use it, as it is necessary for preparing our food, drinking, flushing the toilet, washing dishes, taking showers, and to watering the greenhab veggies.
We also have lots and lots of potatoes, just like the ones that saved Mark Watney in the movie “The Martian”. Although we are not growing potatoes in it, we are using our indoor greenhab to grow Tokyo cabbage, radishes and beans in a series of plant-growth experiments to test watering system prototypes and different ratios of Earth and Martian soil mixtures.
Time for lunch!
– Health and Safety Officer, Team ISU Crew 162