They’re designing a space salad to keep astronauts healthy and happy

When it comes to imagining food in space, the first thing that most people think of is freeze-dried products like astronaut ice cream. While preserved foods will inevitably be part of diets astronauts For the foreseeable future, today there is an increasing focus on how to provide astronauts with fresh foods such as vegetables and grains to at least occasionally eat.

Eating fresh food is important not only for reasons of physical health, but also for the mental health of astronauts. Repeated processed foods can be unappetizing and lead to what’s called menu fatigue, where astronauts don’t want to eat because they’re tired of eating the same foods over and over again. And that can be a real problem when astronauts lose weight and don’t get enough nutrients.

Fortunately, we are getting better and better at growing a variety of foods in the microgravity conditions of space. In recent years, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have grown foods like radishes, lettuce, and hot peppers. Now, a team of researchers has created an “Astronaut Salad” with food that can be grown in space.

The salad created to provide astronauts with nutrition is based on food that can be grown in space. University of Adelaide

The salad, developed by researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia and the University of Nottingham in the UK, contains a mixture of the following: soybeans, poppy, barley, rapeseed, peanuts, potatoes and sunflower seeds. The exact amounts of each ingredient have been adjusted to deliver the nutrients an astronaut might need as measured by 2011 NASA studyAnd for it to taste good, too.

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“We simulated a mix of six to eight crops that provide all the necessary nutrients needed by astronauts, which are different from what people need on Earth,” said one of the researchers, Volker Hessel, from the University of Adelaide. launch. “While there are dozens of crops that can meet the nutrient requirements of astronauts, we needed to find ones that could pack a punch and provide the calories needed in smaller portions that could be grown in a small space.”

The researchers used a computer model to help them balance the nutritional needs of the astronauts, by working from a list of more than 100 plants that might be suitable for growing in space. These are foods that can be grown in a small space, in a hydroponics system, and require minimal fertilizer.

To maintain the food’s appeal, the researchers chose plants with a variety of colors, textures, and flavors. “Food is an integral part of staying healthy and happy, and there are many factors that contribute to this,” said another researcher, Xu Liang, from the University of Nottingham. “In addition to nutritional values ​​and the ability to grow plants in space, we are also looking at other important aspects of a space diet to enhance the well-being of astronauts, including color, flavor, and eating together.”

A team of volunteers tried the salad and seemed happy with it, with one saying they “won’t mind eating this all week like an astronaut.”

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