(Longueil) The Canadian Space Agency and NASA are already working on an Artemis mission that aims to return to the moon by 2024. The first step for a deeper exploration of space for a new international station. But before dreaming of walking on Mars, a major problem must be solved: how to provide enough food to astronauts for missions that will last for many years?
Canadian (CSA) and American (NASA) space agencies launched a large competition called “The Challenge of the World” at the beginning of the year, in the hope of begging thousands of minds from all over the world to set their minds on this puzzle. Deep Space ”(Deep Space Food Challenge).
In the afternoon on Tuesday, experts from both agencies, as well as astronauts including Canadian Jeremy Hansen, participated in a virtual discussion that discussed various aspects of food in space. In particular, the importance of providing tasty and tasty food for astronauts to eat was discussed. An important issue so that they do not reduce their food consumption and maintain good health.
In short, the main problem is that if you go on a space exploration mission, you have to bring everything from Earth with you. Currently, it is easy to supply to the International Space Station (ISS), as it is in orbit around the Earth, a few hours’ flight.
For example, in the case of a mission to Mars, it would be necessary to provide a sufficient amount of food for several years. In addition, it should be kept in mind that there are no refrigerators in the shuttle due to the energy costs required to operate such devices. Currently, dehydrated foods are used that are re-hydrated by astronauts in space. Canned or packaged prepared foods are also used according to NASA experts, but their shelf life is a problem.
We are therefore looking for new ways to provide healthy and tasty food to astronauts. We would also like to develop means of cooking food in hostile environments, such as on the Moon or Mars. The technology that will also apply to Earth, as astronaut Jeremy Hansen pointed out while talking about the competition.
“This is an incredible opportunity for humanity! First, to give us a chance to explore space. Secondly, because it is necessary to feed the population in isolated areas. Food security is a major issue in Canada and food transport is difficult and very expensive, especially in the far north, ”he argued.
It is therefore necessary to keep in mind the fact that astronauts are confined to a confined space with limited resources and constraints related to the weight of energy and equipment.
Fresh and varied foods
The main challenge for space agencies is a way to provide fresh food to astronauts. As the chief scientist of the NASA Food Technology Program Grace Douglas says, fresh produce is the most delicious and comforting for astronauts.
Because beyond simply providing nutrients to the crew members, we must offer them delicious and varied dishes that make them want to eat properly. Each food has a multitude of micronutrients that are essential for the human body.
“To be nutritious, one must eat food!», Leading researcher Scott M. Smith, his colleague at NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s biochemistry laboratory. He says the data suggests that a good diet can help astronauts gain weight. Limits loss and promotes return to Earth.
Everyone agrees that the main complaint made by astronauts is the lack of diversity in food choices. As for the tasting experience, former US astronaut Donald Thomas, who has spent more than 1,000 hours in space on four missions, said it was not bad, but he never ate at restaurants where these types of dishes were served. !
To add, Jeremy Hansen, who is still awaiting his first assignment, recalled that the absence of gravity has the effect of slightly swelling the head and clogging the sinuses. Therefore food becomes more foggy. “You have to plan for spicy or well-seasoned dishes,” he advised any contestant.
The challenge is open to all residents of Canada. Businesses, non-profit organizations or educational institutions are also eligible. The Canadian component of the competition is coordinated by the Canadian Space Agency, which is based in Longueil. Scholarships are awarded as prizes in each of the three stages of the competition. Interested teams must submit their application before 30 July.