NASA-CSA Webinar 2: Space Food Webinar

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CHRIS FRANGIONE: Great, well welcome, everybody. We'll get started and other people will join as we go. Thank you for joining us today for our Deep Space Food Challenge webinar. We're very excited to have you here today. And we're very excited about having our panelists of astronauts and food experts, space food experts. So real quick, let's talk about what we're gonna do today.

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So, we're gonna welcome you to the webinar, go over a little bit of housekeeping - some rules. Then we're going to remind you all of what the Deep Space Food Challenge is. Some of you joined our first webinar where you got a detailed review of it. But for those who have not, we'd like to give you an overview of what we're doing and why, in hopes that you will participate in and help us solve these important challenges. We'll then do some quick introductions of our esteemed panelists, followed by an interesting panel discussion, and then we will be able to open it up for questions and answers from the group.

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Before we get started, this recording and transcript will be available on the challenge site, You can see that here, it also be made available in French on the Canadian website and Impact Canada. And I actually forgot I'm sorry, that this is being translated in French right now. So Clélia, maybe you can give them the input and apologies for forgetting that right at the beginning.
CLÉLIA COTHIER: Bienvenue à tous. Merci d’être avec nous pour ce deuxième webinaire sur le Défi de l’alimentation dans l’espace lointain. Cet événement Zoom est proposé avec interprétation simultanée. Afin d’accéder au webinaire en français, il vous suffit de sélectionner la langue “français” dans le menu “Interprétation”. Si vous utilisez un ordinateur, vous trouverez l'icône d'interprétation au bas de votre écran. Si vous utilisez une tablette ou un téléphone, touchez l’écran, Plus, Interprétation et enfin “français”. Bon webinaire!
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you. Apologies to everybody for that. I was so excited about getting to our panelists, that I forgot that important tidbit of the opportunity to listen to this in French. But that being said, as I mentioned earlier, we will put this recording and transcript on the website and it will also be available in French. During the presentation and during the panel discussion, you're able to ask questions of any of the panelists. So please type that into the Q&A chat at the bottom. Specific questions about a proposed solution or a team's eligibility will not be answered during our webinar today. However, any of those questions can be submitted if you are participating in the US challenge or the international challenge outside of Canada. At the email address of and Canadian participants can email their administrators. Also, please be respectful of your questions and your conversations and your comments in the Q&A box. So before we dig in, we have a really great message from a friend of the food space Alton Brown, so let's hear what he has to say.

Recipe; noun; a set of instructions for making or preparing something.  Especially a food dish.  Sound simple enough?  Well there’s a lot more to it than just putting some ingredients together.  Hi, this is Alton Brown.  In order to successfully create a recipe, say a grilled cheese sandwich, you’ll need some bread…and cheese of course.  A refrigerator to keep the cheese fresh, a pan to cook it in, a source of energy to heat the pan, a knife to spread the butter, a spatula to flip it, spices scoured from the ends of the earth - you get the idea.  And how about the food in our recipe?  Where did you get it?  How did it get there?  Where did it come from?  What sources were needed to grow it, produce it, package it?  It’s a complicated network of processes to get a simple grilled cheese sandwich on the table.  But earth-bound humans have done a pretty good job of putting systems in pace to get it done.  But what about space-bound humans?  Difficulty and distance aside, astronauts on the International Space Station eat quite a healthy diet of fresh and freeze dried foods thanks to semi-regular shipments originating from Earth.  But to boldly go where no human has gone before, we’ll need new and better ways to eat in space.  Future astronauts on, let’s say, a trip to Mars, will spend years away from Earth.

And that means no quick trips to the grocery store.  They’ll have to bring just about everything they’ll need with them. Just like on Earth, when we prepare food in space we need not only the food ingredients themselves, but we also need energy, water and other materials to turn the ingredients into nutritional and tasty meals that astronauts will actually want to eat. So how do we reinvent food production systems so they are sustainable and work in space?  Well that’s where you come in.

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency are launching a competition – the Deep Space Food Challenge.  They’re offering money to anyone that can come up with novel ways to keep our astronauts fed on future long-duration space exploration missions.  What’s really cool – aside from feeding interplanetary humans – is that these space-based food solutions could have transformative impacts on Earth’s food systems helping to resolve food insecurities and scarcities across our own planet.  The Deep Space Food Challenge – pretty big stuff. 
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Hopefully that inspired everybody, and made you want to participate. I'm now going to hand this over to Angela. Angela is going to be co-moderating with me today. She is the challenge manager for NASA's Deep Space Food Challenge. She's going to go over quickly a little bit about the challenge itself.
ANGELA HERBLET: Great. Thank you, Chris. And as Chris said before we jump into our panel discussion, I'm going to give you a brief overview of deep space food challenge and what has brought us all together today.

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So as we look back at the history of space exploration, international collaborations have definitely been key. In the same way, the Deep Space Food Challenge is a collaborative effort between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency in support of space policies of both the United States Government and the Government of Canada. Our two agencies have come together to run parallel competitions around the important topic of food for the benefit of both space exploration missions and potential impacts here on earth. And during the development process, NASA and CSA coordinated on the challenge design, and agreed upon the challenge statement, goals and assessment criteria. And when it comes to executing the challenge, NASA and CSA each manage their own rules document and applicant guide, the prize purse and the eligibility criteria. And it's important to note here that CSA has no responsibility in the NASA-led challenge. And likewise, NASA has no responsibility in the CSA-lead challenge.

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So the goal of the Deep Space Food Challenge is to create novel food production technologies or systems that require minimal inputs and maximize safe, nutritious, and palatable food outputs for long duration space missions, and which also have potential to benefit people on earth. So in phase one of the challenge competitors are required to generate a robust design for a novel food production system. The NASA rules document and the CSA applicant guide outline the constraints and criteria for these designs. We're not looking for a larger food system that will fill every nutritional need of the crew, but rather pieces of an overall system that will significantly contribute to the comprehensive food system. So you can see below the key dates are shown here. For U.S. and international teams, the deadline for registration closes on May 28th. And I will note here that registration is required for U.S. and international teams. It is not required for Canadian teams, so make sure you check the websites as well to see the details on the registration and the eligibility criteria. Submissions are due for all teams on July 30th. And phase one winners will be announced in September of 2021.

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 So there are three tracks that teams can select to compete in. One is the NASA prize which will award up to 500,000 US dollars in a total prize purse to up to 20 top scoring teams that meet the eligibility criteria. The Canadian Space Agency will be awarding 300,000 Canadian dollars in grant funding with up to 10 teams each receiving $30,000 each and an invitation to be semifinalists in the phase two of the challenge. And the teams that are competing for that must meet the unique eligibility requirements from the Canadian Space Agency as well. For those that do not meet the eligibility requirements of the NASA prize or the Canadian Space Agency prize, there is a recognition prize that will recognize the top 10 international teams chosen by both NASA and CSA. Again, the specific eligibility requirements for each prize track can be found in the NASA rules document and the CSA applicant guide.

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So I know that was a quick overview. So if you have any questions, Chris alluded to, or showed you the email addresses to reach out for questions. And please feel free to use those as much and as often as you need to, to get the answers on eligibility and how you can participate. But for now, let's dive into the discussion and get right to the panelists. We're here to talk mainly about food and eating in space. So you'll hear about the history of how we've fed mission crews over the years, the research that's been done on the impact of nutrition on our crew, and how that research has fed into how we plan for missions. And we want to also talk about how innovation could impact food production for both future missions and for Earth. It's also important that we bring forward perspectives from the astronauts. The challenge documents detail the performance criteria that you see listed here, accessibility, safety, resource inputs and outputs and reliability and stability. But it's one thing to read performance criteria on paper. And it's a completely different thing when you hear what those performance criteria mean from the end user. So we hope that this perspective from the astronauts proves valuable as you think about your designs and your solutions and approaches to this challenge. And now I will hand things back over to our moderator, Chris, to introduce the panel.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you. So we have five great panelists today. I'm going to quickly introduce them I'm going to do a very short introduction and let them tell you a little bit more about themselves when they are speaking. So first, we have Grace, who serves as the Lead Scientist for NASA's Advanced Food Technology Research effort at NASA's Johnson Space Center. This effort focuses on determining methods, technologies and requirements for developing safe, nutritious and palatable food systems that will promote astronaut health during long duration space missions. She will really teach you that palatable is very important. We all like good tasting food. Scott leads the Nutritional Biochemistry Laboratory at the NASA Johnson Space Center, which is charged with keeping crews healthy on missions. Natalie is a Project Officer and Operational Space Medicine at the Canadian Space Agency, or CSA. She has supported the provision of Canadian Food on the International Space Station and served as the Exercise Specialist for CSA astronauts during ISS missions. Don is a former astronaut, scientist, professional speaker, educator and author of Orbit of Discovery about his STS 70 mission aboard space shuttle Discovery. He has spent 44 days in space and orbited the Earth nearly 700 times. And then Jeremy is one of two astronaut recruits selected by the Canadian Space Agency in May 2009 through the third Canadian astronaut recruitment campaign. He is one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. While waiting for a flight assignment, he represents CSA at NASA and works at the Mission Control Center as a Capcom, the voice between the ground and that International Space Station. So I'm gonna ask all the panelists to please turn on their video. And I'm going to ask Dane to pull down the slides so we could see everybody a little bit better. So let's dig right into this. So as a reminder for the panelists, if you do not mind, if you could please also, share a little bit more about yourself when you first answer your questions. That'd be very helpful for everybody out there. So Grace, we'd love to hear about your experiences developing the research path to ensure that future food systems meet crew health requirements on spaceflight vehicles, so why don't you jump in there?
GRACE DOUGLAS: Yes, thank you. So I work in this Space Food Systems Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center. And our lab produces all the food that's used on the International Space Station right now. We're also working on how we're going to provide the food for crew on all of the upcoming Artemis missions. And then of course for exploration as we go on to a mission to Mars. And so one of the things that we need to make sure we're doing is determining what food systems could meet the goals of those missions. So in a research path to get to that food system, we need to consider what we're missing today. And our current prepackaged food system that we're using, will not maintain nutrition and acceptability for the length of a Mars mission. So when we think logistically about those missions, we have to launch food, even now, for the international space station, we make the food ahead, we have to put it on a launch vehicle well ahead of launch, and then launch it to spaceflight. And we have to have enough there for crew so that they have a reserve. And so this food gets to be months old, even on ISS even a year old before they consume it. And that's going to become longer with long duration missions. So anything that goes on these missions that we look at will likely need a five year shelf life, so any of the supplies and the foods, and our current food system does not meet that requirement at room temperature stability right now. So once you add in stuff like refrigeration, you're adding a lot of resources. So when we look at our research path, we don't know what the future food system will look like. And that's why we have all of you here today. And what we need to do though, is make sure that we're answering all of those questions. The questions, is this acceptable? What are the resources, the inputs, the outputs of this is going to take because we're going to have really limited resources on these missions, once acceptability and the nutrition of the system, because even if it is nutritious, if it's not acceptable, they're not going to eat enough. And it is really critical that they eat enough to support health and performance. They're going to be tasked at high levels on these missions, we need them to eat the nutrition that they need. So we need to just make sure that any system that we're looking at, we're answering all of those questions, and that's included in that research plan.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you, I was watching a video of yours from 2019. And you had a slide on there that said something like right now we have 65 options for food, and only seven of them will last for five years or so. I don't know if I have that statistic right, but maybe you can talk about the real need right there.
GRACE DOUGLAS: So that was specific to some of our just a portion of our food system, we looked specifically at our thermo-stabilized foods. So we have several kinds of prepackaged foods. Right now we have the dehydrated foods that are freeze dried that they rehydrate in space; and we have thermos-stabilized foods, which are basically canned food in a pouch. And that was referring to those foods. We did a shelf life test where we looked at a segment of those foods that was representative of all of them over multiple years. And based on the quality degradation and the nutritional degradation, we determined that only about seven of those 65 canned foods would have made it to a seven or a five year shelf life. And so that does become a concern because if the food's not acceptable, and it's not providing the nutrition, you're not going to have a healthy performing crew or a successful mission.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you. It's very important, as you alluded to, to have multiple options there. You mentioned palatability a few times. So I'm gonna I'm gonna pass it over to Don, who has spent 44 days in space and hear about his experiences with the food and not only the food and the taste of itself, but the preparation of it. So Don, do you mind jumping in here?
DON THOMAS: Yeah, Thanks, Chris. As we already said, I spent about 44 days in states. And during that time, my estimate I consumed about 125 space meals up there. The food back down the last time I flew in space was about 24 years ago. And back then it was mainly freeze dried food and a thermal stabilizer that Grace has mentioned. It was okay. I never told people it was the most delicious food in the world. And I frequently tell people I would never go to a restaurant that served space food. Well, you don't go to space for the food, you go for the view and for the adventure of it. And the food was okay. My favorite food I ate was a beef and barbecue sauce that was thermal stabilized; sweet and sour chicken; and there were some really good freeze dried food as well. And later on in the program. I was training for ISS-6, Expedition-6. I didn't fly the mission, but I trained and spent a lot of time in Russia. Just bringing in some of the international food some of the Russian food was really good, and just to have a little more variety for us onboard. That made a great advancement.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Excellent, thank you. If you don't mind sharing, did you have any health implications? Did you lose any weight as a result of the food system situation?
DON THOMAS: Yeah, I think there's only one person, one human that I know of, in the history of human spaceflight that gained weight in space. That was Bill Shepard, and he was a Maggot – that was his class name for his astronaut class was the Maggots - and he wanted to gain weight. Every other astronaut has lost weight, maybe half a pound, a few pounds in space, I lost weight on each of my missions. And Bill Shepard has that record, he is the only astronaut to ever gain weight in space. And I don't think there will ever be an astronaut that's going to try to challenge him on that.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: And so it's a world record that he's gonna hold for the rest of the eternity.
DON THOMAS: I think so. But you know, typically on a shuttle mission, they are two weeks long, and you tend not to eat much the first day or two, as you're adjusting to zero gravity. It's gonna be a lot different for these long duration missions. You know, after they dock they're adapted, and then you know, you’re in full appetite mode.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Excellent. Well, thank you. So I'm gonna pass this off to Scott. Scott, you know, one of the challenges always is the nutritional aspect of it, but then also the palatability. Can you tell us a little bit about your work and what you're really pushing for? And then we're going to turn to Natalie and ask her the same question. So just to tee you up, Natalie, on that topic.
SCOTT SMITH: I lead what’s called the Nutritional Biochemistry Lab here at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. And it's a very different lab, it's in a different building and a different division than Grace’s lab. But nonetheless, our work is intertwined. And so her team is involved with coming up with a food system that crews will eat while they're up there. Our job is to determine the nutritional requirements for those foods. So we spend a lot of our time trying to make sure the crews are healthy, that they're going up there in good shape, good nutritional status, that they're eating well, that they're maintaining their body mass. And that, from our perspective, is critical for crew health to be at the top level. Understanding, you know, when you go to the doctor's office, the first thing they do is put you on a scale. And that's because your body mass is a very good index of your overall health. And we do the same thing during spaceflight. I wouldn't shout out individual crew data. But since Don did, Bill Shepherd maintained his weight, he did a great job. He's not alone, he may be one of the few that gained weight. But I've heard flight surgeons say that it's very obvious that people didn't maintain their weight better come off the vehicle, better when they land back on Earth, either when they used to land on the shuttle or when they bounce down in Kazakhstan. The people that did maintain their weight, their muscles are better off the bones are better off their cardiovascular system is better off. And a lot of that is simply based on good nutrition and good exercise. We do operational work to keep crews healthy to assess their nutritional status. We also do research trying to understand how the body changes during flight and how nutrition can be used to mitigate some of the negative effects of spaceflight. We've recently published our 30th paper from space station findings. And we got a wide breadth of work. Everything from showing the crews ate more fish lost less bone. And we think that's related to omega three fatty acids. Crews that eat more fruits and vegetables tend to lose less bone we think related to acid base balance, then we've got some very exciting data related to what I'm called personalized nutrition where genetic influences seem to predispose some astronauts to developing eye problems. And those eye problems they are the underpinning is in B vitamins, things like Folate and vitamin B12. And we're doing ground-based studies now to look at whether or not we could supplement those individuals with vitamins to stop those vision problems. In a very short order to get a big picture of the type of work that we do.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Great, thank you. I'm gonna pass this off to Natalie to answer a similar question about nutrition. And maybe you can help us understand what is your biggest challenge with nutrition in space. Natalie?
NATALIE HIRSCH: Thank you, Chris. And Greetings everyone. So I coordinate nutrition and exercise support at the Canadian Space Agency. I work very closely with Scott and Grace in their labs to ensure that we're providing the nutritional support that CSA astronauts need. So we rely on the expertise of Scott and his team for looking at nutritional status of our astronauts. And then we provide Canadian food to supplement the standardized menu that's available on station. I think in terms of challenges for nutrition, we're starting to see a good variety of food on orbit. One of the reasons that we provide Canadian food is that it just increases that variety and encourages our astronauts to meet the energy requirements that they have. So I think variety is a, we're definitely meeting it now with space station. But as we go further afield, I think that is going to be a challenge because we want to keep that variety in the menu to ensure that crews do continue to meet their energy requirements. And when we start looking at exercise countermeasures exercise is one of the key countermeasures that we use for preventing some of the negative changes that I shouldn't say preventing for mitigating some of the negative changes that occur in spaceflight. And nutrition is a very important component of ensuring that astronauts can perform these exercise countermeasures. They need to have the adequate energy but also the micronutrients as well to make sure that they can maintain their health live while they perform the exercise countermeasures.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Excellent. Thank you. I want to pass this off to Jeremy. Jeremy, as you’re training, what are you most excited about? And what are you learning from the astronauts you're in touch with on the International Space Station as it relates to preparing their food and eating their food and the taste of their food?
JEREMY HANSEN: Yeah, well, Thanks, Chris. Greetings, everyone. Great to join you today. I am an astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency and been training and preparing to go for space for some time. I haven’t flown in space, so unlike Don, I haven't enjoyed any of my meals in space yet. But I have been having meals in some really bizarre and interesting places as I prepare to go to space such as NEEMO missions where we live under the ocean. And basically in a habitat on the ocean floor for a week as a crew. Same thing, we did a caving expedition with the ESA organization, I've been up in the Canadian Arctic, studying geology and Meteor craters there had some interesting meals. Also, as a fighter pilot, I've been in some survival situations for training purposes, not for real, but training purposes where I've had another perspective on food. And I think one of the things I wanted to share with you today, and Don kind of alluded to it is that, you know, I kind of view food in different categories. So you know, there's some times where you're just trying to survive. And it doesn't really matter what the food tastes like, you're just happy to have food and have food security and feel like you're going to survive, that's really important. And then there are other times where you're just so busy, you have so much going on, you're just eating to get by, it's almost like one more job you got to do you want it to be quick, you want it to be easy, and you want to be able to get the nutrients that Natalie was talking about, so you can perform. And that, you know, that's a different category. And then then there's a third category that we don't always often have. But you saw some of it in the video, there is where you're enjoying your food for pleasure and community. In fact, I think you might find it interesting. But we spend a lot more time these days in astronaut training talking about team skills. And that's because as we go on longer duration missions, we need to really work on our communication as a team. And just like a family sits around a dinner table and has a conversation at night. We encourage our astronaut corps to carve out time, you know, maybe not every night, but if you could every night around the dinner table on the space station and have a community meal, and bring out some discussions about the things that are making the team great, and some things that the team could improve on. And food actually becomes a big part of that and to be enjoying that food, preparing it as a community and sharing food. That's a completely different experience. And you know, I don't know what as we explore and try to provide food on the Moon and Mars, you know how able we're going to be to have that experience. But that's something to keep in mind. So it kind of gave me three things like survival, just getting the job done, and enjoying food are three things to think about. In you know, you asked about training, Chris, you know, we, I've had the opportunity to try a lot of this food and taste testings of the food and had space food that Grace was talking about in a number of our training events and, and you know, there's just so much variety and I look back at my notes and my from my taste testing and there's a lot of meals out there. There's more than 160 - it looks like from the notes I looked at - and I've got you know, eights and nines out of 10, it's actually - the scale is at a nine - eights and nines for a number of different foods. So I feel like we're in good shape. But I know I just wanted to add one more thing on the heel of my introduction here is I'm actually particularly excited about all of you that are joining this challenge. I think you have an opportunity to do something absolutely incredible for humanity. One you're going to enable us to explore, that's awesome. And everybody on this on this Zoom or on this video con loves that. But in addition to that the benefits you can bring to humanity on the planet right now are potentially huge. And like, just as one example, in Canada, we're talking a lot about food security in remote regions and the Canadian north. And with climate change, we're seeing traditional food sources are changing, putting food pressures on communities, places where transportations really either really expensive or prohibitive. And so anything we can do to come up with novel ways to provide food security in space could really help us on the planet. So my hat is off all of you for joining in this challenge.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you really, really appreciate that. I'm gonna throw a question out there to anybody and maybe it's a little controversial but, we're doing challenges. So there's as much competition as there is collaboration. But what's the word on the street of who has the best food? Whether food you've actually eaten? Or that any of you know that you've done the nutritional analysis on, but what country is known to have the best space food? Nobody wants to answer.
SCOTT SMITH: Well, I want to answer You’ve heard it before, we saw the comments what most, most crews tell us and not all crews come back and say that the biggest challenge was variety, that on a six month space station, you mentioned when your package of foods and a set of foods you have available to you repeats every eight days, that that gets it doesn't matter how good the food is, or bad the food is. It's still you see it every eight days. And anything to increase variety adds to that. So if for a couple days, they have some Canadian food, or for a couple days, they had some Japanese food. I think there's a lot of that that was the best stuff because it’s new. When we look back on the Russian Space Station Mir, that we flew U.S. crewmembers to back in the 90s. When their cargo vehicles would come up, they would load in things like tomatoes and onions, and some citrus fruit. And Shannon Lucid talked about one time when they open up the vehicle that she took a raw onion and took a bite out of it and that was the best thing she'd had in the longest time because it was crisp. So I don't know if an onion is the best food there. But again, it's all in your perspective.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: That's fair. Anybody else want to jump in? Yeah.
GRACE DOUGLAS: Okay, so I was gonna add to that, you know that I find a big challenge, you know, working in the Food Lab is that, as Scott mentioned, variety and the fresh foods, a lot of fruits and vegetables that we eat on earth tend to be fresh foods. And so the challenge is we have to provide those foods in a way that's acceptable, mostly in a processed form, so that they're shelf stable for months at room temperature right now on the International Space Station. And that's still the plan for some of the upcoming missions. Refrigeration is at a premium, there's a lot of resources involved in that, and we get the comment, you know, isn't space cold? Well, it depends on the orientation to the sun, you know, if you were going to use the cold of space, you would still need a lot of resources to provide infrastructure for that and protection from vacuum. And whether that's better than using a real, you know, refrigerator or not, is still unknown. But when you're looking at the variety, you know, we will have comments, well, I don't eat a lot of food myself, you know, I only you know, eat 10 things in a day and I repeat it. The big challenge, too, is you have a wide group of people, and you don't always know who's going to be flying. And so we try to provide common foods that are commonly acceptable. And that's still a challenge. Because if you look at what you eat, and then even what your family eats, it tends to be widely different. And what might overlap is not often the same thing. So when we're packing for these vehicles, you know, you see the same menus and things like that. But if we were to increase variety, it would decrease what is available still, because we're in a restricted system, we're in a limited system. And so right now, let's say we have two or three packages of one kind of food. If you were going to provide more packages of something different, you have to limit what's there. So somebody really likes broccoli, you might have three of that in that eight day period. And if you have three crew eating that they might each get it once. And so if you want to provide more variety than you might see broccoli once for a crew member in eight days. And so there is where the challenge comes in. How do we provide the common foods in a way that's acceptable? How do we provide the variety in a way that's acceptable? And how do we provide these fresh foods in a way that's acceptable within these limited resources and in this closed system? So I think that's one of the challenges that we're hoping to solve here.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you. Don, did you want to jump in?
DON THOMAS: Yeah, press just to answer the question, like, what country has the best food that you answered? There's a lot of cultural bias, and you tend to align your food preferences with your culture. So I love the NASA food, I thought that was really good. But I did enjoy a lot of the Russian food. So you know, this brought additional variety, you know, to your menu up there, which is a great thing, as everybody's mentioned.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Excellent. Well, I mean, Grace, I mean, the easiest way to solve this problem is to only send my daughter's second grade class, because all they eat is pasta with butter. As long as Parmesan cheese is acceptable in space, and doesn't ruin anything, I think we can solve our long -term mission problems with just a bunch of eight year olds. So kind of looking ahead, well actually, Grace, I'm going to turn back to you real quick. What do you see as the current biggest challenge that we've learned from the past that we need to apply to the future in terms of our food systems? And then we're going to jump ahead and talk about what's probably really interesting to the group listening who want to participate – what are we expecting? Right?
GRACE DOUGLAS: Yeah, and I definitely think it's making sure that we have variety and choice even within that limited system, because, you know, we also get the comment, can we provide vitamins if the nutrients are degrading? Well, you know, vitamins could have roles for certain things, but there's thousands, of phytochemicals and whole foods, and you want to provide choice within that. If you tell somebody you have to eat this one thing every day to get that nutrient. And that person doesn't want to eat that, especially over time, that's going to become really challenging, and something that, you know, becomes a psychological thing that they abhor doing. So, you know, when we look at food, we know that as the mission gets longer food is becoming more important in isolation and confinement and being able to gather for those meals and enjoy them becomes important for, you know, just crew camaraderie and having that opportunity for the familiar. So providing familiar, acceptable foods becomes more important as these missions get longer, and also more challenging as these missions get longer. So I think, you know, from history, from ISS, shuttle to ISS missions that got longer, we learned we didn't have enough choices. And so we had to provide more choices, so crew could find something they wanted to eat. Providing exactly the number of calories that we need for our mission is not a good way to go. We need to provide more than that, so that there is choice there.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you. And I'm going to turn to Natalie and Scott, just from your perspective, from the nutrition perspective, what do you see as the biggest challenges that we have to address moving forward for longer term missions?
NATALIE HIRSCH: Um, I think we've sort of covered it a bit in the variety aspect and that we want to ensure that crew are getting adequate energy and also adequate macro and micronutrients. And so the way to do that is really to ensure that they're eating enough. And you have a good variety of foods. So that will continue to be a challenge as we go forward.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Great, Scott, anything to add there?
SCOTT SMITH: Yeah. When I talk to astronauts, the first thing I tell them, is the biggest thing is you got to eat, you got to get calories, and you got to maintain your weight. Beyond that, you tend to look at macronutrients and then you start to look into micronutrients. As we look beyond low Earth orbit, we're gonna have a much higher radiation profile, we're gonna have a greater oxidative stress profile. And we're going to start to look at as Grace talks about foods with more vegetables, more phytochemicals, the things that we don't really understand how they help cure cancer, for instance. Now we know that you know, everybody's always looking for the vitamin that's going to cure cancer. We haven't found it yet. But we know people that eat more broccoli and eat more cauliflower and more cruciferous vegetables have a lower incidence of cancer. So figuring out how to adapt the food system so that we can optimize it so that we're flying a very healthy food system that the crews will eat is going to be absolutely critical as we leave low earth orbit.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you, and Don and Jeremy just from the standpoint of being the one up there that has 18,000 things to do on a given day. What are the biggest challenges that that astronauts face in either preparing or eating or whatever it is. Is food an afterthought? Is food something you focus on all day long? I would love your thoughts there.
DON THOMAS: I'll start off, you know, on the space shuttle, they would give us about an hour for lunch, breakfast, you know, dinner, an hour break there. And that was time to collect your food, prepare it and then enjoy a meal together. So it was really a rushed event. But it was a really a great treat everybody looked forward to that, you know, every day up there. So, you know, food became really important, even on a short 16 day mission. But it didn't consume a lot of our day, the food was very easy to prepare, you know, you add water to the freeze dried food, the thermal stabilized, we throw it in a little, you know, convection oven, to heat it up a little bit. So it was really simple to prepare. We mainly wanted to get our food, and then go to the window and watch the earth go by just like many Americans watch TV during their dinner. I don't do that. But I've heard some Americans do that. In space, you just want to grab your food and go to the window and watch the world outside.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Was there one window that was better than the others?
DON THOMAS: Just depends on which way the shuttle was oriented. We had two big windows two overhead windows in the space shuttle. And everybody would just be looking out of those two, it was like, you know, you're sharing a lunch together, we would be sharing the views. Like maybe watching a movie together eating a meal, something like that, or our view was just a planet Earth.

CHRIS FRANGIONE: Love it. Jeremy, anything to add?
JEREMY HANSEN: Yeah, just a couple of thoughts. You know, Don's missions were you know, highly choreographed timelines really, really busy missions from beginning to end on a space shuttle. And then ISS, you have, you know, this huge spans of time. Now, we've gotten really good at flying more and more science so we're keeping the astronauts really busy onboard the International Space Station. But obviously they have more time, over that six-month duration than Don would have had on a mission to at least some of the time enjoy food. So, you know, to answer question Chris, is that it really depends. Like some days, you're just trying to get food in, I think, I mean, I haven't lived this yet. But just the experiences I've had on Earth, some days, you're just trying to get food done so you can you can have nutrition. And then other days, you're kind of looking for that experience. And I would just for people to put in the back of their minds as we explore, we don't necessarily have as many utilization tasks initially as we explore further. You know, the challenge is just getting there surviving, getting your spacecraft back, or landing on the moon for the first time. And so initially, we may have long gaps of time where astronauts do have the time to prepare some food, or enjoy a meal or have some form of preparation, but you wouldn't want to count on that all the time. And I noticed one of the comments, or one of the questions was, you know, does the astronaut’s palette change in space, essentially? And the answer that Don you're better positioned to answer than me, but all my colleagues have told me that Yeah, the answer is yes. Because you may have noticed that when astronauts fly there, their faces become a little bit puffier. And that's because of the lack of gravity, a lot of our blood resides down in our core, in our torso, and in space, it just naturally redistributes more evenly. And so your head is puffier, and it's kind of like having a cold with respect to losing some of your taste. And so everybody, warns rookie fliers that you're going to probably want more spice than you're used to. And so a lot of people are flying hot sauces, or wasabi paste and things like that, just to get that variety and to like have something that they can really taste, because the food does become more bland in space.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you. So I'm gonna ask one last question to everybody. And I'm gonna ask you to answer it in 15 seconds or less. And then we're gonna open it up to the questions that came in through the Q&A. And the way that will work is Angela has been moderating that and she will jump back in and start asking those questions. But last question, before we open it up is what is the one thing as people are participating in this challenge or planning to participate in this challenge that you think is important for them to know? The most important thing for them to take into consideration from your perspective. So whoever wants to jump in first?
JEREMY HANSEN: Okay. You know, there's so many different aspects of this. And I see a lot of focus on the prepared foods that we fly. But from my perspective, what I'm most excited about is how do we, as a species, produce food in space or on the moon, or on Mars. Really, really fascinated by, you know, somebody who can break the mold on this. And maybe it's somewhat, it can be as conventional as it was before, but you got to think about the energy constraints. And there's just a lot there for you to dig into.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you. Go for it Scott
SCOTT SMITH: To be nutritious, the food has to be eaten. So no matter how fancy your or rich the food is, it's got to be palatable. It's gotta be interesting. It's got to be eaten. And you got to keep those two things together.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Great, thank you. Why don't we go to Grace?
GRACE DOUGLAS: So the process can be just as important as the final product for acceptability. So if you think about an exploration mission versus where we start having human settlement and food specialists, an exploration mission probably won't have food specialists. So what are you willing to do in your kitchen at home, especially after a long day of work? So whatever solutions you're thinking of, how could you make that something people would want to do at their homes?
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Great, why don't we go to Natalie?
NATALIE HIRSCH: Just add a different aspect to what the previous panel panelists have said, we also need something that's reliable. So especially as we go further and further away from Earth, and the crews are really self-reliant, we need to make sure that we've got a robust system. So reliability will be very important.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: And then Don, why don't you take us home and I'm going to pass it over to Angela.
DON THOMAS: Okay, you know, I kind of object to the word palatable, palatable means it's like edible, and lima beans are edible, but I'm not going to eat them in space. So what I would like to inject in there, make sure from the astronauts perspective, that the food is delicious. And it's something that's going to please me, make me psychologically feel better when I'm up in space. And if I'm going to enjoy it, it'll help with the nutrition, it's going to help overall, with the wellbeing of the astronauts.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you. So we have about 10 minutes left. So I'm gonna pass this over to Angela to share some of the questions we received in the chat.
SCOTT SMITH: Can I jump in real quick?
SCOTT SMITH: I just want to echo Don's comment. You’re absolutely right. But that hits on another issue that we have is not you will eat the lima beans, but there's gonna be a crew member coming after you who loves them. And how do you how do you balance that out? That's what makes Grace's job really, really hard. And we've had that on orbit. We've had one crew say, look, we've got tons of packages of grits up here, can we throw them out? And the next crew said no don’t throw them out, I'll eat them when I get there. And again, the more you dig into this, you realize just how hard this is.
CHRIS FRANGIONE: Great, thank you for that. Angela, you want to take over?
ANGELA HERBLET: Sure. So that was a great, great discussion. You've all actually answered a lot of the questions that have come in. So this is, this is great. I've highlighted a few. We've had many come in. So the first one I'm going to start with is what do the astronauts say they struggle the most the most with the space food? Is it taste? Is it texture, smell, variety? What really kind of hit you that was difficult to overcome as far as acceptability with the food, and I'll hand that either to Jeremy or Don and I'd like you both to answer.
DON THOMAS: I’ll start off and I think you hit on a number of the issues Jeremy mentioned, you know, the food is a little bland up there. So you'd like it to be a little spicier. Consistency also changes. You know, shrimp cocktail is one of the most popular items in the shuttle program. And that's because it's a little bit spicy with the cocktail sauce, and it had a really good consistency. You can just close your eyes and eat a shrimp cocktail in space. And you might not know the difference between getting that one and one at your favorite restaurant. Where some of the other foods I like the freeze-dried strawberries. I love them in space, their consistency and they were soft and mushy. It wasn't like a fresh, crisp strawberry I would eat here on Earth, but it had great taste and the aroma when I would cut the package open, I would just smell strawberries. And so it was kind of a tradeoff between the consistency and the flavor that you want and some aroma to that as well.
JEREMY HANSEN: Yeah, you just having eaten a lot of the space food on the ground, I agree a lot with what Don said, and then I'd add in, you know, there's just some things that are missing. Like, we avoid foods that create crumbs, we just don't fly them. Like, for example, regular bread, you know, you can imagine if you pulled out a slice of bread and went to put some butter on it, you just have bread crumbs floating all over the place. Or chips. If you opened up a bag of chips, you have chip crumbs floating all over the place. And so we avoided a lot of those things. And so some of the consistencies, or some of the staples, you might be used to augmenting your diet with they're just not available.
ANGELA HERBLET: Thank you. And then so to tack onto that a little bit. Someone's submitted a question that said nutrition and eating starts with your eyes. So what the food looks like really feeds into if you want to eat it. So how do the meals look? Do you see them when you're eating them? Or is it in a solid package? And how does that affect how you consume them?
GRACE DOUGLAS: I was just going to mention that they are in solid packages, and a lot of the reason for that is shelf life. So the solid packages have a layer that protects them from moisture and oxygen and gives them a longer shelf life, which we definitely need as we get further into spaceflight. So and they are all processed to this point. So that's a very valid point, that we do try to add in, you know, a lot of different ingredients, colors, things like that, both for nutrition and to improve the way the foods look unacceptability. So that's I'll stop there.
DON THOMAS: And from the freeze dried food, you know, it looked horrible, you know, it doesn't look appetizing. But you know, once you add the water, you know, the consistency will get better, you're going to get that aroma from it. So overall, I would say space food doesn't look appetizing. So I don't think it starts with the, with your eyes with a vision of the food in space, it's more maybe, in your mind of what it's going to taste like or what smell what it's going to smell like when you open the package.
ANGELA HERBLET: Great, thank you. So Jeremy, I'm gonna pass this one to you. Someone made mention of, you know, there being crossover between providing the same type of prepackaged meals to like troops, and so I'm curious, could you speak to, you know, what was the food like on the NEEMO mission? Or when you were on other missions? How does that compare to the food they're prepping for space? And is there crossover there as far as the technology is concerned? And what can be enhanced?
JEREMY HANSEN: Yeah, I'll give you my perspective on it. And then, you know, maybe Scott or Grace can correct me if I stray afield. But in addition to the foods that are supplied by NASA and the other international partners, we do have the ability to select from some off the shelf foods to augment our diet and take the space with us or to take on these missions. So, I've utilized some of the standard camping foods that you would go into an REI or a (?) Co Op and buy and take camping and rehydrate. I’ve used some of those some other nonperishable type foods on missions. So, I think there is crossover. Some of the some of the foods in our system, if I'm not mistaken, Grace, are the same as the military MRE rations. Is that correct? Yeah, so we have some of those. So there's definitely some crossover and the technologies for preserving those foods and having shelf life. And the simplicity of access and preparation are very useful in a military environment, obviously.
ANGELA HERBLET: Great, thank you. Grace. Did you want to add to that?
GRACE DOUGLAS: I can add to that, that we do use some military foods. The reason we don't use the entire military system is because those foods tend to be really, really high in sodium. And we are trying, you know, when you're eating a completely prepackaged menu for these amounts of times, it's challenging. Sodium tastes really good. And so we need to try to make sure that we're also maintaining adequate sodium levels and not excessive sodium levels. And so a lot of our foods that we have developed have been to reduce that sodium content. It does have other impacts in spaceflight, too.
ANGELA HERBLET: Great. So I'm going to wrap up with this one last question. Unfortunately, we are very close to the end of our time. And there are a lot of great questions coming in. But here's the last one. When thinking about the foods that you're providing to the astronauts in a closed space, are there any foods like beans or brussel sprouts or cabbage, kimchi, onions, things like that, that are no no's because they do have kind of other physical implications, or is that different when you're in space?

JEREMY HANSEN: One thought comes to mind that I've learned from my colleagues is that there have been some fish meals that really just had a strong, strong odor, once you open it up, then it would just be pervasive throughout the module. And so that that was frowned upon to open up some. So you have to think about the smell. That's one of the things.
ANGELA HERBLET: Natalie or Scott any thoughts there?
SCOTT SMITH: Well I’ll say the food system is actually pretty high in fiber. So the answer the question directly, no, there's no limitations on any specific food.
DON THOMAS: And I might just add, you know, you might talk it over with your group members, as well. If you knew somebody didn't like fish or like the smell of add. And you would tend to avoid those if you could, or you eat that into another module somewhere to stay out of the way of that just being considerate of your group members.
ANGELA HERBLET: That is a great point. Okay, so that is the wrap up for the Q&A right now. I'm going to give Dane a second to pull up the slides again. So thank you so much to our panelists. This was a great discussion. There are many, many questions that came in. So we will be working with the panelists to fill in answers for a lot of these questions and post them on the websites afterwards. So just again, a reminder that the websites will have the recordings available, including the French version, and you'll be able to find those on both the Impact Canada website and the website as well. I'm going to hand it back over to Chris, to wrap this up and go through the rest of this information. But thank you again to the panelists. This was great.

CHRIS FRANGIONE: Thank you, Angela. And thank you to all of our panelists. What a fun discussion. Apologies that we couldn't get to all the questions. But what are our next steps. So we would love for all of you to participate in any of these challenges, whether the U.S.-based one, international outside of Canada, and the U.S.-based one or the Canadian -ased one. So please feel free to go to the website, learn about what these are, and start submitting your solutions. If you go to, you'll be able to stay in the loop getting email updates, etc. And we have a LinkedIn group to continue these conversations. So if you go to what's on this slide, you'll be able to get there. This will be as Angela said, this will be updated. I'm sorry, this will be posted. Our previous one is already posted. The one that was more about the rules and eligibility. And for Canadians look out for a networking session on March 23rd. And more information on that will be on the Impact Canada website. So thank you for your time. We hope everybody enjoyed the conversation. And we really hope to see lots of solutions that could help us solve our challenges in space, but also be relevant to our challenges on Earth. Thank you!

Questions and Answers

  • Resources Challenge Website
    NASA Rules Document
    CSA Application Guide

    Nutritional Needs of the Crew
    Evolution of foods for ISS

    Processing and packaging of space food

    Current systems and standards
    Informational Article on Future Food Systems
    NASA Human Research Roadmap

    • 1. Can individuals submit a design?

      For U.S. and non-Canadian International teams, yes, as long as the eligibility requirements are met, an individual can participate in the challenge and win a prize.

      For Canadian teams, individuals or groups of individuals are encouraged to submit an application to the Challenge, but in order to be eligible to receive prizes, they will be required to establish a Canadian legal entity (such as a corporation or a not-for-profit organization) capable of entering into binding agreements in Canada.

    • 2. Can International teams participate in Phase 2 if they win the recognition prize?

      Should Phase 2 open, all Teams selected as winners and/or awarded a prize purse in Phase 1 will also be invited to advance to Phase 2. Additional U.S. or International Teams (whether they participated in Phase 1 or not) may also be able to register to participate in Phase 2 once it opens.

    • 3. I am an individual looking for a team, OR our team is looking for someone with a specific expertise. Where should we go?

      There is a LinkedIn group (Deep Space Food Challenge Forum) available to support networking between individuals looking to form or join a team and teams looking for additional members.

      For Canadian teams, there will be a Networking Activity organized for this purpose, on April 29th.
      More information can be found here.

    • 4. Must each member of the team be registered, or does one registration per team suffice?

      For U.S. and International teams, each member of the team must register and submit the required registration paperwork. Consultants do not have to be registered as a member of the team. It is up to the teams to decide who should be a registered team member, and who is considered a consultant.

      For Canadian teams, registration of interest is not mandatory. Information on all members has to be provided through the Application Form. For Registration of Interest, one or all members can submit the form for the team. Consultants do not have to be included as a member of the team. It is up to the teams to decide who should be considered as a team member, and who is considered a consultant.


    • 5. How do I apply to the challenge?

      For U.S. and non-Canadian International teams, please visit to begin the registration process.

      For Canadian teams, registration is not required, but suggested in order for teams to receive updates on challenge events. The registration form for Canadian teams can be found here.

      Teams can apply by submitting their designs anytime before the July 30th deadline here.

    • 6. When is the Challenge? What is the Challenge timeline?

      Phase 1 of the Deep Space Food Challenge opened on January 12, 2021. The key dates are as follows:

      • May 28, 2021 – Registration closes for U.S. and International teams
      • July 30, 2021 – Submission deadline for all teams
      • August 2021 – Judging Panels review and score submissions
      • Fall 2021 – Phase 1 Winners Announced
    • 7. What information are teams asked to provide in their submission?

      All teams will provide the required information and a video via an online application form. The form will prompt you to provide inputs for each of the criteria, except for scientific and technical merit and feasibility of design, which will be evaluated based on your overall submission. Canadian teams can find this form on the Impact Canada website. A detailed guide on how to submit the Application Form is available in the Canadian Applicant Guide. For U.S. and international teams, a link to access the form will be sent to you after your registration is complete and confirmed, and you've been admitted as an eligible team.

      Through this online form teams will provide:

      • A design abstract - a summary description of the food production technology in 250 words or less. This should make the judges want to read more so make sure it is engaging and interesting.

      • The design report - the full description of your food production technology design.

      • The design animation – the team’s opportunity to show how the food production technology works when it's an operation. The animation should be no longer than five minutes in length and should include set up, operations from a user perspective, inputs and outputs, and shut down and cleaning.

      • Statement of intellectual property - An explanation of who owns the IP of the proposed food production technology.

      Please note, the online application form is the only way that a design concept will be accepted and reviewed by the challenge judges.

    • 8. Can teams only enter one design?

      Teams may enter more than one design. However, teams may only register to compete in one region (U.S., Canada, or non-Canadian International).

    TECHNICAL QUESTIONS - International Space Station & Systems

    • 9. What type of cooking appliances (if any) are currently available on the ISS?

      There are several youtube videos that show the process and what is available:

    • 10. Are there any food preparation tools that NASA is planning to include in future spaceflights? For example, an oven for baking.

      There are no specific plans for preparation tools beyond the ability to dispense water, and the ability to heat some foods (not cook them). For the purposes of the challenge, anything you need for your system must be considered in resources and safety requirements (touch temperatures). ISS can dispense hot and cold water, but it is limited to 2.5 L per person per day for food and beverages (nominally) with specific increases when crew are performing EVAs. ISS has a small food warmer and a small chiller. Some upcoming missions may even be more limited (no hot water, no chiller, some parts of the missions may not have any food heating capability).

    • 11. What type of cooking methods are currently used?

      Most common are hot water rehydration and warming drawers for bringing the food up to "hot meal" temperatures. Refrigerators are also used to cool some food products before they are consumed.

    • 12. Does the current food packaging produce waste, or is it reused?

      The current food packaging generates a considerable amount of waste, even more than you do camping with freeze dried meals. To increase variety, there are many foods in their own packets that can be mixed with a variety of other foods to help keep things interesting. When you're backpacking, you generally have one packet per meal, but anyone who has done this understands the sacrifice in food palatability and variety they are making to save weight.

    • 13. Is there any food currently being grown for consumption on ISS?

      While "space crops" are grown and consumed on the ISS, so far this doesn't represent a substantial portion of the astronaut's diet. To date, food grown on the ISS is not considered part of the nominal ISS menu. This is because of the very small growing areas (0.2 Square meters is typical). Red leaf lettuce, kale, mizuna are a few examples of crops that have been produced and consumed. This technology is progressing.

    • 14. What are the current issues with the pillow method?

      Growing plants in the current pillows offers many challenges. The major problem is that the pillows are not reusable and they are heavy for what they do. They are filled with a calcined clay material and often have slow release fertilizer pellets mixed in. The pillows are well sealed to keep the substrate from leaking out and becoming a small particle risk for the astronauts. Since we don’t have a way to reuse them in space, they represent a large resource loss when they are discarded. Even on Earth it is easier to make new ones then to try to refurbish the soil and reuse them.

    • 15.What is the longest duration mission that NASA is currently prepared for?

      This is a difficult question to answer. Russia holds the current record for a MIR mission lasting 437 days. Scott Kelly holds the American record at 340 days, followed by Christina Kock at 328.6 days. Current mission planning for Artemis is about 30 days while at the Lunar Gateway. A minimal Mars mission would be 21 months. You should plan your food systems to meet the duration requirements in the rules document.

    • 16. What technologies are being planned for use on the surface of other planets? Are we still planning on using hot water rehydration, or will access to fresh food allow for things such as boiling or sautéing?

      Honestly, planning is at the very early stages for this. The preparation technique you propose should be easy and simple. Currently there is no mass allowance allocated to a stove, so an argument would have to be made for one based on psychological and nutritional benefits to the crew. It would be hugely advantageous for the food system to function in microgravity, but that is not a requirement for this challenge.

    • 17. Have there been any challenges with bacterial/fungal contamination of food products in space or while products are being transported?

      All food is carefully tested and packaged to maintain safety, nutrition and flavor. Currently food must be stable at room temperature for long term storage. Because it is all sterilely packaged, there is little opportunity for it to be contaminated. Fresh foods are often loaded onto the cargo ships just prior to launch as a treat for the astronauts, but this will not be practical for deep space missions.

    • 18. Is there a maximum food temperature you can heat things to in space? Or a maximum cooking time?

      Our recommendation would be to propose what you need. Food warmers (convection boxes for warming food pouches) typically operate around 76 deg C or lower. Hot (but not boiling) water is available for rehydrating foods or making coffee. A oven was recently tested for baking cookies in space that operated up to 177 deg C, but baking times were much different than on earth, and it has not been extensively used, nor is it a standard part of the galley.

    • 19. What is the most difficult part of:
      • Making the food for flight?

        Logistics – everything needs to have a long shelf life since it has to be loaded onto the vehicle well in advance of launch, and a lot of food is launched well before it will be consumed.

      • Eating the food?

        For Don Thomas (former NASA Astronaut) the most challenging aspect was in selecting something that was appetizing for any given meal. Six months before his mission the crew did the taste-tests of all the available food items and then selected what they wanted for each meal for each day of the mission. A few astronauts on that mission ate their meals exactly as planned and scheduled: Day 1 meal A, Day 1 meal B, Day 1 meal C, Day 2 meal A, …etc. They seemed to prefer this method because it was one less thing they had to think about during the mission. These astronauts tended to be from the military, who were more comfortable with structure and order. By far most of the astronauts on Don’s missions requested to have their selected food packed “pantry style” where all the entrees are packed together, all the side dishes together, all the desserts together, and all the drinks together. Don preferred this method because it gave him the freedom to choose his meal depending on how he felt that day. So much of the crew’s “freedom of choice” is taken away by the demands of the mission. Most of their life is pre-planned and cast in stone in the flight plan or crew activity plan. So any freedom was greatly welcomed. At mealtime Don would open his food drawer and search through the food items for whatever struck his fancy at that moment, and that became his meal. Sometimes he would search from front to back of his food drawer and not see anything of interest. “I must have missed the good stuff” he’d think to himself, and repeat the search once again from front to back. When nothing “stood out” he would have the realization that this was all he had, and then he would select the best option that was available. So sometimes he settled for some meals even if he was not thrilled about his choices. This in-flight selection of what he was going to eat that day was the most difficult aspect of eating. The actual process of preparing the food and the eating or drinking in space was not the least bit difficult.

      • Cleanup after eating?

        With the current prepackaged food system, clean up is minimal and as simple as disposing of the empty packaging. Astronauts have commented that crumbs or small droplets of liquid (that escape from the drink bag straw if care is not taken) are a challenge to control and/or clean up in microgravity.

        On the shuttle, the only things that were not thrown away were the utensils. Per Don Thomas (former NASA Astronaut), they were issued one metal fork, spoon, and knife which we reused every day. They were supposed to “clean” our utensils using an alcohol wipe after each use, but he thinks most astronauts just licked their utensils clean and maybe wiped it with a paper tissue and they were done. Much like you might do on a backpacking trip when no kitchen sink is available.

    • 20. Is room temperature the only current storage solution?

      Yes, currently the prepackaged food is stored at ambient temperatures. For the purposes of the challenge, anything you need for your proposed system must be considered in resources.

    • 21. Can space cold temperature be used for preserving food?

      If you were going to use the cold of space, you would still need a lot of resources to provide infrastructure for that as well as protection from vacuum. For example you would need to make sure the food is never facing the sun or allowed to warm. Whether that's better than using a refrigerator or not, is still unknown. Refrigeration is not a great option currently due to the power and cooling requirements.

    • 22. What issues have there been with resupply?

      There have been occasions where multiple resupply vehicles have failed (e.g. during Scott Kelly’s mission). This problem is handled by ensuring that there is always more food, oxygen, water and other supplies on station than are required for the current mission. On the ISS, if the situation became critical the crew would be ordered to return to Earth. This is less of an option for a Lunar mission, and may not be an option for a Mars bound mission.

    • 23. Out of the various problems of variety, longevity, storage, and nutrition, what is the problem that is most prevalent?

      Variety and providing fresh foods. A lot of fruits and vegetables that we eat on earth tend to be fresh foods, and the challenge is we have to provide those foods in a way that's acceptable, mostly in a processed form, so that they're shelf stable for months at room temperature right now on the International Space Station.

    TECHNICAL QUESTIONS - International Space Station & Systems

    • 24. Instead of dehydrating it then rehydrating the food, wouldn’t it be easier to just send it up as-is?

      It still costs over $2,000 for SpaceX to place a kg (1 Liter of water) on orbit. Lifting weight to the moon will be much more expensive. All water lifted into space (including in the form of fruit and vegetables) is recycled as many times as possible to make as much use of that investment as possible. Dehydrated foods weigh only 10% - 50% of their fresh versions, meaning more food can be lifted per unit currency. They require less volume, and fewer launches as well.

    • 25. What do the astronauts drink in space? Do they get a variety?

      In addition to water, they have a wide variety of drinks available to them including coffee.

    • 26. What did Russia do differently to make the food experience more enjoyable?

      On the ISS foods from different nations are provided. The Russians simply provide a menu that is familiar to the cosmonauts. Many astronauts also enjoy the Russian meals.

    • 27. What is the biggest drawback to the freeze dried food? Taste, texture, lack of certain nutrients?

      We commonly get a lot of the vegetables and fruits we eat from the fresh or frozen section on Earth, and often have a crisp texture, so this can be missed in spaceflight where logistics limits variety and requires a processed system. High quality and healthy freeze-dried foods can be produced that when hydrated have a good quality. There are also retort thermostabilized foods in pouches, low and intermediate moisture foods (dried fruits, food bars, crackers), and some extended shelf life bread products used in spaceflight currently. We can provide all nutrients (except vitamin D) with this system. However, shelf life is a challenge, as nutrients and quality will degrade over time. Any system that is used in spaceflight has to have components that meet the shelf life requirements.

      For Don Thomas (former NASA Astronaut), most of the freeze-dried food tended to be a bit bland so most crews tended to fly plenty of condiments to help with this. Sometimes the texture was too weird from what you were used to. Some freeze-dried foods were very popular, like the shrimp cocktail. The taste was good and the texture of the shrimp was unchanged from normal earth shrimp cocktail. And the cocktail sauce added a little “kick” or extra flavor to the food which most astronauts enjoyed. Some other freeze-dried items had big changes in their texture. Freeze-dried strawberries are a good example. When they are rehydrated in space their texture is very soft and “mushy” like I would associate with strawberries that are “past their prime”. That can be a big turn-off. But for me personally, the taste and aroma made up for the change in texture for me. I happily accepted the “soft” strawberries because they tasted great and when I cut open the package, I remember the aroma of the strawberries. It smelled so good in space! I did not worry at all about the nutrients in the food. I left that up to NASA and the dieticians to worry about. For me it was all about the taste and texture. In Don’s opinion the MRE’s (military rations) that we flew on the shuttle were more popular because they mostly had good flavor and pretty much the same texture as on earth.

    • 26. What did Russia do differently to make the food experience more enjoyable?

      On the ISS foods from different nations are provided. The Russians simply provide a menu that is familiar to the cosmonauts. Many astronauts also enjoy the Russian meals.

    • 28. Does the crew ever mix different packets of food together to create new dishes in space?

      This is a common practice among the crew, and they like to share different dishes both for variety, and to create a sense of community.

    • 29. What is the biggest challenge regarding flavor and fragrance profiles for food and beverage?

      Providing flavor in processed foods while meeting nutritional requirements, including required sodium limits. Sodium provides a lot of flavor, we use a lot of spices and natural flavors instead.

    • 30. Do the astronauts currently eat (insert food item)?

      The crew is provided with a variety of common foods similar to how we eat on Earth. Each International Partner flies food to supplement the standard ISS menu (which is provided by NASA for US, European, Japanese and Canadian astronauts). CSA provides Canadian foods that remind their astronaut of home and/or to contribute to group meals, as well as increase variety in the menu.

    • 31. Are there recipes or foods that have completely failed or scored consistently lowest when tasted?

      There are some foods that are commonly consumed fresh or refrigerated (guacamole) that can be a challenge to provide an acceptable shelf stable equivalent that meets nutritional requirements.

    • 32. How much of the space food launched is eventually “thrown out”?

      We don’t have a good number, but there have been some studies done with Shuttle. Some waste is expected though, there needs to be some choice, as food becomes more psychologically important with duration and length of mission.

      Section of the NASA Life Support Baseline Values and Assumptions Document gives the values of those studies.

    • 33. Do the astronauts get to choose their entire menu? Or are there some assigned “must eat” foods?

      The menu system on the ISS is well evolved and fairly complex. A history and description of the evolution of the food system can be found here and here.

    • 34. How long does the food currently last in space?

      The food needs to have around a 2-3 year total shelf life for ISS, as it needs a 1.5 year shelf life at the point where it even goes to launch on ISS. Food (or components) will need 5 years for exploration.

    • 35. Nutrition starts with the eyes; how do the space meals look?

      The freeze dried food doesn't look appetizing. But once you add the water, the consistency gets better and you're going to experience an aroma from it. Overall space food doesn't look appetizing. So rather than the experience starting with your eyes, it's more in your mind of what it's going to taste like or what it's going to smell like when you open the package.

    • 36. Are there any “no-no” foods based on potential physical reactions? Ex: allergies, heartburn, digestive issues.

      There are no limitations on any specific food. For beverages, alcohol is not currently included in the menu options for the crew. For the purposes of the challenge, teams should not consider this an option unless they can present a compelling reason why it should be allowed.

    • 37. What is the serving size in one package of food? Is it meant to be a single serving for one person?

      The food items on ISS are all single serving portion size, in part because you want as little (or none) leftover food for a few reasons, one being that the trash will smell.

    • 38. Will current military food systems be leveraged for deep space use?

      Some of the foods in the current food system are the same as the military MRE rations. The reason we don't use the entire military system is because those foods tend to be really high in sodium. And we are trying to make sure that we're maintaining adequate sodium levels and not excessive sodium levels.

    • 39. What do we know about the effects of low or no gravity on vegetal life? Do they tend to develop edema-like conditions due to sucking water and nutrients too?

      The microgravity environment on the ISS is very stressful for plants. Nonetheless, a great deal of work has been done to develop systems for growing plants in this environment. The correct varieties of plants must be chosen to be compatible with the high CO2 environment. Water, air circulation, and lighting all have to be carefully controlled. With proper care, crops have been successfully produced on space shuttles and space stations.

    • 40. What major food group do you foresee being the most challenging to produce, whether in space or in a remote location, like Canada’s north?

      At this point in time we really don’t have the capacity to produce any of the major row crops: corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, etc.. This is due to planting area requirements. We choose crops with a high “harvest index”. This is essentially the ratio of the usable part of the plant to the unusable plant mass. For crops like lettuce, beets, sweet potatoes, nearly the entire plant can be consumed making them attractive candidates. From a nutrition point of view – the hardest things to produce will be energy containing nutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) given the amount required is significant.

    • 41. What percentage of vegetable production is done in space?

      Vegetable production in space is still in an early stage, and is contributing only a tiny fraction of the food consumed on the ISS. Much of the plant material is returned to earth so that we can better understand how our systems are performing and if we are producing the nutrition that we would like to see.

    • 42. Is crop production also a being pursued in this challenge as a compliment to meal production?

      Since we aren’t asking for an entire meal system, cropping systems could meet the requirements of producing a variety of foods, but the time spent on caring for them and harvesting them needs to come from the meal production and maintenance times. Automation may offer a solution.

    TECHNICAL QUESTIONS - Astronaut Senses & Wellbeing

    • 43. Are taste and smell affected in space?

      Yes. You may have noticed that when astronauts fly their faces become a little bit puffier. And that's because of the lack of gravity, a lot of our blood resides down in our core, in our torso, and in space, it just naturally redistributes more evenly. So your head is puffier, and it's kind of like having a cold with respect to losing some of your taste.

    • 44. Do the astronauts prefer spicy food?

      Many astronauts are flying hot sauces, or wasabi paste and things like that, just to get that variety and to have something that they can really taste, because the food does taste blander in space. Chilli peppers and wasabi are also being considered as deep space crops for the same reasons.

    • 45. Considering the effects of gravity and nasal passages being blocked limiting the sense of taste, to what extent do additives added by astronauts such as salt and hot sauce affect nutrition, such as adding excess sodium, and is this a potential concern?

      It needs to have around a 2-3 year total shelf life for ISS, as it needs a 1.5 year shelf life at the point where it even goes to launch on ISS. Food (or components) will need 5 years for exploration. Reference also the answer provided in question #29.

    • 46. What do the astronauts say is the worst thing about space food? Taste, texture, smell, variety, etc.

      Per the panelists, the food is a little bland and the consistency also changes. Aroma is something that is also very important. It can be a pleasant experience, like when opening a package of strawberries. Or it can be very unpleasant, like having an adverse reaction to a crew member’s meal that includes fish (for example).

    • 47. How do quality and quantity of the available food affect the astronaut’s psychological health?

      There are a lot of ways that food (quantity and quality) can affect crew morale, behavior, performance, etc. The available food repeats about every 8 days – and even with the best food, if you know if it is repeating, you will get bored of even your favorite foods. The food system is designed to provide as much variety as possible, which means during those 8 days, there may only be a few (2-3) packages of each food item. If your crewmates eat the foods you like before you can get them – imagine how happy that would make you feel.

    • 48. Are there plans to develop "family" meals as part of larger morale and team building protocol?

      ISS crews routinely dine together when they can. This helps to alleviate some of the sense of isolation, create crew bonding, and improve a shared sense of community.

    • 49. Are the astronauts excited about the possibility of growing produce in space?

      Yes! Most enjoy the opportunity to get something that is fresh and nutritious in their diet, and many gain a sense of psychological sense of well being by attending to their gardens. Unfortunately gardening cannot be the primary job for a spacefarer, as they have a very demanding job to do.

    • 50. I hear some astronauts talk about missing the act of making food, is this the case and could it be a positive thing to add into the process of a long term food solution in space?

      For some – absolutely. It is hard to select a crew to be sure you have a chef on board though.

    • 51. On longer duration missions, will astronauts be given “time off” where they can make a special meal or snack if they want to?

      Crews get a small amount of time off, usually on weekends. Some may “cook” if that is what they like, but not all are interested in cooking.

    • 52. What are the diseases astronauts are expected to face on Mars? For example, muscle issues due to inactivity.

      The body works hard to adapt to spaceflight, but the lack of gravity affects virtually every system. We worry about bone and muscle loss, cardiovascular problems, cancer risk from radiation exposure, eye problems, immune problems, brain problems, and more.


    • 53. Foods rich in omega-3 or B12 vitamins were specifically mentioned during the webinar. What are some of the most challenging nutritional requirements to meet adequately in space? Can you point us toward any particular report or study?

      We’ve published a few books which can be downloaded for free from, and we have a new one coming out in a few months. These highlight a lot of what is known (or not known) about nutrition and spaceflight. We’ve published a few papers on B-vitamin metabolism and ocular health (most recently: Zwart SR, et asl. Association of genetics and B vitamin status with the magnitude of optic disc edema during 30-day strict head-down tilt bed rest. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2019;137:1195-200). We also published omega-3 data (Zwart SR, et al. Capacity of omega-3 fatty acids or eicosapentaenoic acid to counteract weightlessness-induced bone loss by inhibiting NF-kappaB activation: from cells to bed rest to astronauts. J Bone Miner Res. 2010;25:1049-57.)

    • 54. Are supplements/vitamin products a diet component on the ISS?

      We provide vitamin D supplements for ISS crews, because the food system doesn’t have a lot of good sources of vitamin D, and because crews are protected from UV light so the body can’t make vitamin D through the skin, as we do on Earth.

    • 55. Are there lower bounds for calories/kg, or nutritional-density/kg that that you use to currently determine if a food/meal is viable for current spaceflight?

      No. Many vegetables, for example, have few calories, but are a very important part of your diet.

    • 56. Are food selections matched with specific Astronauts' microbiomes?

      No. Food is a shared resource, and must be available to all crew members, especially because crews sometimes change before launch.

    • 57. Do the Astronauts do anything prior to a flight into space to prepare their microbiome for alternative food consumption?

      No. We don’t understand enough yet to know what changes might be beneficial, or how to bring those changes about.

    • 58. As food becomes more compact for long term space flight, is it expected that fiber would become a more important gap to fill using fresh foods?

      That is certainly possible.

    • 59. Why does NASA use the macronutrients standard of 50-55% of total daily energy intake?

      We usually start with terrestrial standards, and adjust as needed for flight.

    • 60. As we are advancing and evolving and looking to travel interstellar. Wouldn't it be smarter to adapt a different style of eating for nutrition instead of trying to eat for taste and fulfillment?

      Interesting question. Many astronauts (or many people) would tell you that they could/would eat anything for a trip to…Mars, or the moon, or ISS. I have no doubt that some could do that, but we know from experience that food takes on even greater importance during flight when it is one of the few things to remind you of home. On a stressful, busy, 3 year Mars mission – the crew will need ways to relax. Meals are a great way to build camaraderie and team cohesion. Sitting around eating the same gruel you had for lunch, breakfast, and/or for the last 2 years is likely not the best way to do it.

    TECHNICAL QUESTIONS - Criteria & Constraints

    • 61. Are there general technical specifications available anywhere to see if my designs would fit in with current technology or systems?

      Information on the current standards for food systems as they related to the challenge targets can be found in NASA-STD-3001

    • 62. For our food solution, is it okay to make assumptions about the spacecraft on which the solution will be implemented? For example, can we assume that a vehicle will have a small refrigerator onboard that will allow our solution to be viable?

      There will be actual interface requirements on a spacecraft, but for this phase of the challenge where we're trying to capture a wide range of creative ideas from everyone who's participating, just defining what those resource needs are for your technology or your approach to food production is what we're looking for.

    • 63. How much storage space is available for the food produced?

      We're looking for things that can be produced and consumed relatively quickly. Not looking to grow a lot of wheat for example, and then store that. The focus of this challenge is for ready-to-eat or a short period of storage and then to eat. One of the reasons we laid out the constraints that you see is because of the volume, mass, and logistic constraints. It is unlikely that a solution that requires a lot of storage is going to work over the long term because of volume and stability issues. The reason that we are having this challenge is because meeting the logistics and the stability needs all at once is really challenging.

    • 64. What shelf life are you looking for in a food solution?

      The challenge is seeking to identify food production technologies that can help fill food gaps for a three-year round-trip mission with no resupply.

    • 65. Because we cannot perform shelf stability studies in the length of this competition, how can we prove the feasibility of our food system for a multi-year mission

      Per the Reliability/Stability section of the Performance Criteria, teams will describe the stability of both the input products used and food product outputs. Description should include rationalization of the estimated time the inputs and outputs will be fit for use and/or consumption (i.e. shelf-life). Targets: Longest possible shelf-life of the ingredients and food products. They must remain safe, without any significant loss of nutritional value or quality at ambient conditions

    • 66. Does the shelf life of the food need to last multiple years, or can it be a system which continually produces food over the duration of the mission but the food product only lasts 1 month (for example)?

      The system needs to produce a variety of safe, nutritious foods. Tell us how you are going to do that. Foods can be produced over the course of the mission and do not have to have a multi-year shelf life. Tell us how you will keep the food “safe to eat” and what you will do with it if it passes its expiration date.

    • 67. Is there a specific kind of energy my food production system should use?

      For this challenge, we expect the food systems will be using “electrical power”. There are no specific voltage, current or amperage standards for this challenge since we are not asking you to design a “flight ready” system.

    • 68. Is the challenge looking for two different systems? One for the trip to Mars, and one while on the surface?

      We are only asking you to design your systems for the earth bound environment. NASA and CSA are interested in flexible and modular food production technologies that adapt to changing needs and mission architectures. The intent is to use modular and flexible technologies and build them into systems that meet the unique needs of each mission type or specific mission. The Deep Space Food Challenge provides a set of constraints and asks Teams to produce the best food production technology they can within those constraints. The scoring criteria recognizes that a combination of technologies will be used together in an overall food system, and rewards those technologies (submissions) that are likely to contribute to multiple mission scenarios.

    • 69. Is the focus on taking ingredients like flour or eggs from Earth and designing a system to create meals from these? Or is the goal to produce edible ingredients from inedible components?

      We are asking you to help us make a step change from where we are now to create a variety of nutritious foods that an astronaut or person living in a remote location would be very excited about eating. We know how to pre-packaged food, but this is not meeting the psychological needs of our crews, and may have problems meeting their nutritional needs on long duration missions. Loss of vitamins and nutrients is a concern over long periods of storage. Any solution would be of interest, but keep in mind the confines of the challenge.

    • 70. Do the novel technology submissions have to be mechanical systems or can they be foods prepared on earth that are brought onto spaceships?

      Any food system that meets the requirements is a candidate. The other side of this is that the judges will be looking at resources. So the candidates that rise to the top will be those that meet the requirements and also succeed resource wise against the other potential candidates. Ultimately the goal is to find a food system that is safe, nutritious, and acceptable, provides variety, and fits within the resources. And what that's going to end up looking like could be a variety of things. It could be something produced on the ground or on the mission.

    • 71. How much time do you think we should plan for in the challenge for producing and separately for preparing/making the food?

      In the Acceptability category of the Performance Criteria it states:

      • Accessibility of the food production process
        • Teams will decrive the operations processes and procuedures, including (nto not limited to) how a person will set up and use the solution
          • Operational footprint (i.e., how much space is needed for the solution and its related processes?)
          • Food production technology set up
          • Food production cycle, including steps to produce food products
          • Food handling, processing procedures and collection of food products
          • Shutdown, cleaning, and/or stowage procedure(s)
          • An estimate of the overall crew time to operate and maintain the technology

        • Teams must provide an assessment (using industry standards and/or existing research) that their technology processes are likely to be user friendly and acceptable to crew.

        • NOTE: The process must be something crew members could be expected to accomplish in a reasonable amount of time, on a daily basis in a small kitchen-like space after a busy workday.

        • Target: Teams should consider the current target for Astronauts is 1 hour per meal (30 minutes for preparation, 30 minutes for the meal itself).
    • 72. Will this mission have a sustained microgravity environment for the astronauts?

      Certainly we want to use the food production technologies in partial gravity, on a planetary surface, or in microgravity. But testing for that is very challenging and expensive and beyond what we could ask for in this phase of the challenge. We really need the basics demonstrated here on Earth, and that's why we limited the requirements of this challenge to Earth gravity demonstration. If teams can extrapolate how this would apply to microgravity or partial gravity that'd be great, but is not necessary. 1g is the requirement.

    • 73. Is it reasonable to expect that on future missions (ISS or other) there would be personnel dedicated to the growing/raising/preparing food?

      Later missions may have a crew member dedicated to the growing, raising and preparing of the food. For the purposes of this challenge, teams should assume an exploration-focused mission in which each crew member will be engaged with the food production system.

    • 74. Should we implement the assumption of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU)?

      In-situ derived resources still require significant energy to obtain. Bringing regolith into the habitat and using it for a growth media has unknown and uncharacterized risks to human health. For purposes of this phase of the challenge, defining the required resources (independent of their origin) is all that is required. Also, for purposes of this challenge it should be assumed regolith is not available for a growth media. Additionally one application for the technology might be a transit vehicle to Mars where no other resources are available during the trip. Ultimately the goal is to find a food system that is safe, nutritious, and acceptable, provides variety, and fits within the resources.

    • 75. How does scoring work if the solution only provides a small portion of the needed nutrition for four astronauts?

      The scoring category for Resource Inputs & Outputs asks teams to provide the nutritional potential of the food produced with their technologies. The targets are:

      • Maximum macronutrients supplied, as a percentage of a crew member's complete dietary needs
      • Maximum micronutrients supplied, as a percentage of a crew member's complete dietary needs
      • Maximum variety of nutrients supplied
    • 76. Should we focus on a main food system or incorporate a suite of resource and recycling systems? Would that be a favorable submission?

      The challenge is about providing a variety of nutritious foods. It is certainly fine to include how you might recycle other resources to produce these foods, but the focus should be on the food system. Keep in mind that there are requirements around the acceptability and safety of the process, so you would want to address these issues in your report, particularly if you are recycling other organic materials.

    • 77. Are there any other restraints in addition to what is described in the Phase 1 competition rules?

      All of the constraints and requirements are included in the Phase 1 competition rules.

    • 78. Is the focus of Phase 1 on meal production? And will subsequent phases focus on other aspects of the challenge (e.g. crop production, reusing waste, etc.)?

      The Deep Space Food Challenge is expected to be composed of three phases:

      • Phase 1: Design. Requires Teams to design a novel food production technology concept and provide a detailed explanation of how it meets the Challenge goals and performance criteria.

      • Phase 2: Kitchen Demonstration. Would require Teams to build a food production technology prototype (equivalent to a TRL 4) and demonstrate the prototype during a Kitchen-Level demonstration at a designated facility. Teams would also provide samples of food outputs (e.g., tangible nutritional products) from the prototype, and may be asked to provide a vision for future commercialization of the technology.

      • Phase 3: Full System Demonstration. Would require Teams to build a full-scale food production technology and demonstrate the technology at a designated facility. Teams may be asked to provide a business plan for commercialization of the demonstrated technology.

      For NASA, the initiation of Phase 2 is contingent on the emergence of promising submissions in Phase 1 that demonstrate a viable approach to achieving the Challenge goals. The initiation of Phase 3 is contingent upon the outcomes of Phase 2.


    • 79. Would a solution that used (algae, insects, snails, spirulina, etc.) be acceptable?

      Teams may offer any solution they feel meets the goals of the challenge. In the past, proposed technologies have not been able to address the full range of considerations for a potential food system. For example, a technology may fill the nutritional needs of the crew, but may not be very appealing to prepare and/or consume. The Deep Space Food Challenge, is interested in game-changing food system technologies. Additionally, if the resource requirements of a food production technology are greater than those currently achievable with existing space systems, that technology may not transfer well to a spaceflight environment. If resource requirements of a food production technology are comparable, there should be a beneficial trade in other areas, such as nutritional stability, acceptability, safety, health and performance promotion, and crew considerations such as time and ease of use.

    • 80. Can I suggest a food item that will last for long-duration missions instead of a food system?

      The Deep Space Food Challenge is seeking food production technologies.

    • 81. Can a participant propose a technology that doesn't meet that standard, e.g. high fat and protein, low carb?

      Teams may design any food production technology that meets the goals of the Challenge within the listed constraints and the performance criteria.

    • 82. How impactful it would be to intermittently attend a process to cook a meal. Would it be better to put more work in all at once or to periodically put small amounts of work in?

      If you have a great idea, we would love to hear it. If putting small amounts of effort in over extended periods helps you to solve the challenge, please let us know how.

    • 83. What about preservation in alcohol? Is alcohol frowned upon due to mission capacity degradation? Weight during launch?

      Preservation of the food is not the issue in general. Freeze dried or canned foods maintain their caloric count for years, but some of the less stable vitamins degrade over time. This becomes more of an issue in the space radiation environment where the radiation enhances the vitamin loss, as well as increases the crew’s need for them. Also the crews get tired of the prepackaged menu choices. If you have a solution that addresses these issues please enter the challenge.

    • 84. In choosing an edible crops to use in deep space missions, is it required to provide data about nutritional properties (macronutrients & micronutrients) of chosen crops?

      Per the scoring category for Resource Inputs & Outputs asks teams to provide the nutritional potential of the food produced with their technologies. The targets are:

      • Maximum macronutrients supplied, as a percentage of a crew member's complete dietary needs
      • Maximum micronutrients supplied, as a percentage of a crew member's complete dietary needs
      • Maximum variety of nutrients supplied

      You may take and report these values from any recognized authoritative source. Just cite the source you are using. There is no need to measure them yourself during the first phase of the challenge.