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Thursday, October 18, 2012
Wastebook 2012: University of Hawaii Martian Food Tasting Project
By Selected News Articles @ 1:46 AM :: 7764 Views :: Energy, Environment, National News, Ethics

Out-of-this-world Martian food tasting – (HI) $947,000

(This is the only Hawaii program mentioned in Wastebook 2012)

From Wastebook 2012, Office of Sen Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Imagine pizza so out of this world, you would have to travel to Mars to have a slice.

That is the goal of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Advanced Food Technology Project, which has already developed a recipe for pizza and about 100 other foods that could be served some day on Mars.

Of course, NASA no longer has a manned spaced fleet and no current mission plans for human space flight to Mars, but some are hopeful a trip to the red planet could possibly be taken in the mid-2030s at the earliest. Even this goal is optimistic, however, due to budget constraints that have reduced the appetite for costly space missions.

Yet, NASA spends about $1 million annually “researching and building the Mars menu.” This year, NASA also awarded $947,000 to researchers at Cornell University and the University of Hawaii to study the best food for astronauts to eat on Mars.

Six volunteers will head into a barren landscape in Hawaii to simulate a 120-day Mars mission. In exchange, they receive an all-expenses-paid trip, plus $5,000 each, for completing the journey.

Volunteers will perform the activities Mars explorers might do, including wearing space suits and taking “Navy showers,” in order to see how different foods might affect their moods and health. In keeping with the purpose of the food study, one of the stated primary procedures for the participants is to “consume only ‘instant’ foods and foods prepared from shelf stable ingredients…and rate these foods.” Preparation for this extreme food-tasting challenge starts before the 120-day “mission.” Participants will attend a four-day workshop, and a two-week training exercise in the months leading up to the simulation, slated for early 2013.

Though anyone could submit an application, the research team was not looking for just anyone. They needed “people who are interested in food, who know how to cook.”

Ultimately, NASA wants to know what the best food options might be for long-term travel. The study organizers note “humans eating a restricted diet over a period of months ultimately experience ‘menu fatigue,’ also known as food monotony.” Astronauts currently have over 100 different food options. Preparing meals on Mars, however, offers new culinary opportunities. In space, “the lack of gravity means smell — and taste — is impaired. So the food is bland.” Because gravity does exist on Mars, astronauts would be able to “chop vegetables and do a little cooking of their own.” All the recipes developed so far are “vegetarian because the astronauts will not have dairy or meat products available. It isn’t possible to preserve those products long enough to take to Mars — and bringing a cow on the mission is not an option,” according to the senior research scientist at Lockheed Martin leading a team of three who are building the Martian menu.

You do not need to be a rocket scientist to realize the millions of dollars being spent to taste test Martian meals that may never be served is lost in a black hole.

---30---

Plushnick-Masti, Ramit. “The Big Story: NASA builds menu for planned Mars mission in 2030s,” Associated Press, July 17, 2012. Available at http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nasa-builds-menu-planned-mars-mission-2030s, accessed September 27, 2012.

Daneman, Matthew. “Mars mission to be simulated to find best menus for trip,” USA Today, February 20, 2012, http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/story/2012-02-17/research-mars-food-hawaii/53160760/1 , accessed September 24, 2012.

Vergano, Dan. “NASA chief: U.S. won't go it alone on manned Mars mission,” USA Today, August 1, 2012, http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/story/2012-08-01/NASA-mars-rover/56656270/1, accessed September 27, 2012.

Atkinson, Nancy. “Dream Job: Go to Hawaii and Eat Astronaut Food,” Universe Today, February 27, 2012. Available at http://www.universetoday.com/93818/dream-job-go-to-hawaii-and-eat-astronaut-food/, accessed September 24, 2012.

“Compensation, and penalties for early withdrawal,” Cornell/University of Hawaii Mars Analogue Mission and Food Study website, accessed October 11, 2012; http://manoa.hawaii.edu/hi-seas/RecruitmentClosed.html .

HI-SEAS program, University of Hawaii website, http://manoa.hawaii.edu/hi-seas/RecruitmentClosed.html, accessed September 24, 2012.

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