For all of you hydroponic farmers out there that dreamed of being an astronaut as a child your time may be coming. NASA is planning a manned mission to Mars slated for 2030. Interestingly enough one of the first priorities in planning this mission to the famed RED Planet is to first figure out the food supply for the mission which is estimated to take 2.5 years. It will take 6 months to reach Mars, followed by 18 months on Mars, then a 6 month return mission back to earth. Our current food technology is falling short with regard to packaging, preparation, and variety. Senior research scientist Maya Cooper with Lockheed Martin who is leading efforts to build the menu says that the current astronaut ice cream we are all so familiar with has a 2 year shelf life and that new options must, and are being investigated. They have developed over 100 menu options (all vegetarian) and plan to utilize a mixture of the classic freeze dried astronaut foods as well fresh fruits and vegetables. They are planning a greenhouse structure to be erected on Mars where hydroponically grown crops will allow the brave space travelers to dine on a steady but varied diet of fruits and vegetables.
According to many astronauts the monotony and lack of choice when it comes to meals available currently to space travelers has a drastic effect on morale. By having this “Martian greenhouse” NASA is hoping to give our astronauts some flexibility and choice. If they want a salad with certain vegetables…they can have it. It will also allow them to alter and augment the freeze dried foods giving them a bit more choice and variety. Hydroponics will once again be at the forefront of the space program!
For more of the interview with Maya Cooper on the Mission to Mars check out this NPR interview.
For a video of Maya Cooper talking about the diet on the Mission to Mars check out this YouTube video.