NASA is planning the menu to Mars, which will need to sustain six to eight astronauts on their three-year journey to the red planet, even though the mission won’t happen for at least 10 to 15 years.
The Huffington Post reports that the meal creation is taking place inside a 1960s-era building, which has housed research dating back to the early years of the U.S. space program. The group of scientists involved spend their time creating the menu to sustain the Mars astronauts for 3 years.
While their trip will not take place until the 2030s, NASA isn’t fooling around, and the group wants to create a healthy menu that keeps their astronauts happy, while also offering a broad selection of food. Astronauts will spend six months flying to the red planet, 18 months there, and then another six months returning to Earth.
Maya Cooper, senior research scientist with Lockheed Martin who is leading the efforts to build the menu, stated:
“Mars is different just because it’s so far away. We don’t have the option to send a vehicle every six months and send more food as we do for International Space Station.”
Fox News reports that astronauts at the International Space Station have a variety of food, which includes about 100 different meal options, which is all pre-prepared and freeze-dried with a two year-plus shelf-life. They are unable to prepare food, because of the lack of gravity.
With the Mars mission, astronauts will have a little bit of gravity, meaning that NASA is able to consider significant changes to their current space menu. For Cooper and her team, this means that astronauts may be able to chop some veggies and do their own cooking during the mission. While pressure levels will be different on the red planet versus Earth, they believe the astronauts will be able to boil water with a pressure cooker.
Cooper and her staff in the Johnson Space Center in Houston are even considering giving the astronauts their own “Martian greenhouse” (although it won’t use any Martian soil). The greenhouse would allow for a variety of fruits and vegetables (like carrots and bell peppers) to be grown in a mineral-laced water solution, which the Mars astronauts can then use to prepare their own meals. Cooper stated:
“That menu is favorable because it allows the astronauts to actually have live plants that are growing, you have optimum nutrient delivery with fresh fruits and vegetables, and it actually allows them to have freedom of choice when they’re actually cooking the menus because the food isn’t already pre-prepared into a particular recipe.”
Also included on the Mars mission menu? Cheeseless Thai pizza with vegetables and a spicy sauce. Looks like the Mars astronauts may be eating better than any other astronaut before them.