Forget pre-made meals that require the addition of water, how about eating sushi in space?
This is one of the possibilities researchers are considering as they study different ways of preparing foods for the 2030s Mars Mission. The study makes use of some gourmet pantry ingredients like truffle oil, macadamia nuts and dried shiitake mushrooms.
Why the emphasis on ingredients full of umami? Astronauts tend to get bored with pre-packaged foods and often eat less. This could jeapordize their health and lead to lower morale and productivity, according to researchers.
''The food is more than sustenance. It really needs to appeal to their emotions - their physical and emotional wellbeing - and it needs to be relatively easy to prepare because these people are not there primarily to cook but to be scientists,'' said Rupert Spies, a chef with a background in chemistry who spoke to NPR.
Beginning April 15th, researchers will participate in 120-day space simulation in Hawaii's big island. The NASA-funded project is called HiSEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration and Analog Simulation) and is a collaboration between Cornell University and the University of Hawaii.
Image courtesy Cornell University
HiSEAS will study all aspects of living in Mars as well as the food possibilities for the trip. Specifically, the researchers will be looking at two types of food preparation: pre-packaged food that only requires the addition of water or cooking food like you do on planet Earth.
Although Mars will have some gravity, cooks will be faced with a lower boiling point. Deep frying will be a no-no as the grease could end up on the spaceship's instruments.
So what will astronauts have access to?
A pantry full of spices and ingredients such as truffle oil, dried shiitake mushrooms, anchovies, dried eggs, powdered cheese and canned tuna. They may also have access to pasta, rice or flour-based dishes and dried beans, according to Science Friday.
So far, tasty dishes researchers have come up include sushi, smoky black beans and corn, French toast and mac and cheese.