Scientifically formulated salad may be served on tomorrow’s spaceships

In order to survive long trips to other planets, astronauts are going to have to eat more than just easily-stored TV dinners and ramen noodles. With that fact in mind, scientists recently created what they determined could be the ideal fresh-food meal for space travelers.

The dish was formulated by an international team of scientists, led by Prof. Volker Hessel of the University of Adelaide.

They utilized a process known as linear programming, in which different variables are balanced in order to reach a specific goal. That goal, in this case, was to “meet a male astronaut’s daily nutritional needs while minimizing the water required to grow the foods.”

Importantly, astronauts in space burn more calories than those of us on Earth. They also need more micronutrients, due to the effects of living in a zero-gravity environment. Additionally, fresh produce raised in spaceships should require as little fertilizer and growing area as possible, plus it should grow quickly.

It was ultimately found that the best meal was a vegetarian salad consisting of soybeans, poppy seeds, barley, kale, peanuts, sweet potato and/or sunflower seeds. Although it does offer “the most efficient balance of maximal nutrients and minimal farming inputs,” it falls a bit short on micronutrient content – the scientists believe this shortcoming could be made up for by adding supplements.

Responses from a four-person taste test panel ranged from really liking the salad to saying it was OK, but still going back for second helpings. The scientists now plan on formulating a meal to meet the requirements of female astronauts, and to add more crop types to their database.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal ACS Food Science & Technology.

Source: American Chemical Society

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