Working with the Canadian Space Agency, NASA has announced a massive prize pool for people to help agencies solve the problem of feeding astronauts nutritious meal in space during missions that last for several years. NASA is looking for public participants in the research and development of food production technologies and systems that are innovative, sustainable, require minimum resources and produce as little waste as possible.
According to their website: “Early lunar missions will begin by using prepackaged food systems similar to those in use on the International Space Station (ISS) today, but extending the duration of lunar missions requires reducing resupply dependency on Earth until a food system is ready to support a mission to Mars.
“Thus, testing a sustainable system on the Moon that meets lunar crews’ needs is a fundamental step for both lunar sustainability and Mars exploration.
“As part of this, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are focused on how to furnish crew members with a viable food system for all long duration planetary missions.”
Interstellar ambitions aside, this project will also tackle food insecurity, a chronic problem that affects large swathes of the Earth.
According to the latest figures from the government, around 4.7 million adults and 2.5 million children live in households that have experienced food insecurity in the past year.
Food insecurity has detrimental effects on children’s physical and mental health and negative consequences for their educational attainment.
NASA has long grappled with the issue of food on multi year space expeditions. As food loses its nutritional value over time, typical pre-packaged food wouldn’t be enough.
Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, said: “Feeding astronauts over long periods within the constraints of space travel will require innovative solutions.