After four months living in a simulated Martian habitat on Hawaii’s Big Island, researchers have finally answered that burning question: what would astronauts eat on Mars?
The NASA funded HI-SEAS experiment saw six researchers living together in a small dome 2500m up the Mauna Loa volcano. The crew experienced the same communication delays and water restrictions as they would on Mars, and were only allowed out into the barren, Martian-looking landscape wearing spacesuits. Most importantly, the team had to cook and eat as though they were living on the Red Planet.
So what did they eat? By dehydrating and freeze-drying many ingredients before they set off for ‘Mars’, the crew were actually able to cook a great deal of dishes not so distant from their Earthly counterparts. Couscous, pasta and even quiche were all on the menu, only slightly tweaked to take into account that, with no fridge, it’s not really a good idea to be storing fresh eggs or milk on the station.
But the experiment was about much more than just sustaining the crew. The pre-packaged, just-add-water meals that are common on the International Space Station can do just that, and have the added benefit of requiring practically no preparation or washing up. But the risk is that astronauts begin to suffer from ‘food boredom’, which not only affects their mood but can also lead to malnourishment.
That’s why this team of gastronauts rustled up a combination of pre-packaged and freshly prepared meals to see which ones they liked best. The verdict? Pre-prepared ‘Kung Fu Chicken’ tastes like slime, but improvised tortillas are here to stay.
A Typical Martian Menu (follow the links for recipes!)
Blueberry lemon pancakes, with egg crystals, lemon powder and freeze-dried blueberries
No-crust quiche muffins, with rehydrated vegetables, rehydrated cheddar cheese and egg crystals
Moroccan beef tagine, with freeze-dried roast beef, dehydrated onions and powdered ginger
Spam fried rice, with dehydrated mushrooms, egg powder, medium-grain rice and a can of turkey spam
Dark Matter cake, with hazelnut coffee, unsweetened cocoa powder, mayonnaise and condensed milk