Researchers Claim To Have Designed The ‘Perfect’ Astronaut Meal

4th Jan 2024
Researchers Claim To Have Designed The ‘Perfect’ Astronaut Meal

In a study published in ACS Food Science & Technology, scientists claim they have developed the ideal “space meal”: a delicious vegetarian salad. The researchers carefully selected fresh ingredients that fulfil the specific nutritional requirements of male astronauts while taking into consideration the practicalities of space travel. The menu for an astronaut meal is likely to change.

Astronauts on a space mission burn more calories than they would on Earth due to the extended exposure to microgravity. Therefore, to stay healthy, taking on extra micronutrients, such as calcium, is highly recommended in an astronaut meal. In upcoming prolonged space journeys, it will be crucial to adopt sustainable and circular approaches to cultivating space food within spacecraft or space colonies.

Despite researchers delving into techniques for cultivating food in space and identifying the necessary nutrients for astronaut well-being, no specific fresh meals have been tailored for this purpose. Hence, Volker Hessel and colleagues aimed to optimize a space meal that not only fulfils the unique requirements of spaceflight but also offers a delightful taste.

Analyzing Fresh Ingredient Combinations through Linear Programming

To kick-start their investigation, the researchers analyzed different combinations of fresh ingredients using linear programming, a computational method designed to harmonize variables and fulfill a specific objective.

In this situation, their computer program was able to discover how to make sure a male astronaut gets all the nutrition he needs each day from different foods while using as little water as possible to grow those foods.

The sustainability of the food was also an area of concern for the team. Therefore, ingredients that required next to no fertilizer or space and were able to grow quickly found themselves at the top of the list. They also wanted anything deemed to be inedible to be recyclable.

Among the ten scenarios investigated by the researchers, they determined that a vegetarian meal incorporating soybeans, poppy seeds, barley, kale, peanuts, sweet potato, and/or sunflower seeds presented the most effective balance of maximizing nutrients while requiring minimal farming inputs.

This combination might not be everything an astronaut will need, but the researchers of this project are suggesting that those missing could be added in a supplement.

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