A recent article on CBC tells us something interesting about the Red Planet. It seems that the good folks at NASA’s Advanced Food Technology Project are planning a menu that astronauts will be taking with them to Mars. It’s all part of a planned mission that will be taking place in 2030, involving six to eight astronauts with an expected duration of six months.
This is no easy feat, but it’s further complicated by the fact that once there, the astronauts will not be able to be resupplied at regular intervals. Yes, unlike the ISS, they can’t just send shuttled loaded with freeze dried food. Luckily, NASA knows that Mars low gravity means that once there, astronauts will be able to prepare their own food. Things things like chopping vegetables and boiling water with a pressure cooker are possible there, unlike in a zero-g environment.
So in addition to planning a travel menu, NASA is planning on equipping the mission with the means to create a “Martian greenhouse” upon their arrival. This would include a variety of fruits and vegetables — from carrots to bell peppers — kept in a hydroponic solution, meaning they would be planted in mineral-laced water instead of soil. The astronauts would care for their garden and then use those ingredients, combined with others, such as nuts and spices brought from Earth, to prepare their meals.
Not bad. And an improvement over a space menu for one simple reason. Zero-g has an effect on taste and smell. Yes, zero gravity seems to impair these things, making food taste bland. So a spicy red pepper sauce and a chili and oil sauce, when eaten in space, are pretty much paste. Not cool…
This research is an important step in ushering in the age of colonization. Much like the recent surveys which discovered of water on the moon, and tested its gravity and for minerals, it’s the sort of nuts and bolts planning that will one day go into real mission planning. First the Moon, then Mars, then Ganymede, Europa, Ceres, Titan and Oberon. All bodies with gravity that could be settled in the not-too-distant future, and that’s just within our solar system! Given the time, resources and technology, the universe really is the limit!