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Space food researchers emerge after four months on 'Mars'

The six people spent four months living in Hawaii in a simulated exercise, eating foods made from shelf-stable ingredients.


PIZZA. CAKE. SOUP. The six volunteers taking part in a special study on a lava field in Hawaii had all that to eat, and more, for the past four months.

But this was no typical study – they were living as astronauts in a ‘fake’ space on the Big Island for a four-month mission to Mars.

Their aim of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (Hi-Seas) was to find out how food preparation would work on the mission to Mars, and the food they were given was made with shelf-stable ingredients. That meant freeze-dried vegetables, herbs and grains, like oats, sweet potato and rice.

Pic: Hi-Seas

Usually, astronauts heat pre-prepared meals. But on Mars, astronauts would have gravity, and could prepare their own food products from shelf-stable ingredients and cook from recipes.

The researchers were to examine both approaches, and see which worked better overall and if making their own meals would fight ‘food boredom’ and help bond the crew.


The University of Hawaii and Cornell University selected six people of various scientific backgrounds to take part in the study.

The crew members include a research space scientist for the US Geological Survey in Arizona, a science and technology journalist from San Francisco and a materials scientist and educator working with disadvantaged students in Puerto Rico.

Today will see the researchers emerging from their simulated Martian base for the first time without the mock space suits they had to wear whenever they left the dome on the northern slope of the Big Island’s Mauna Loa.

Pic: Hi-Seas

“It will be the first time they feel fresh air on their faces,” said Kim Binsted, a UH-Manoa associate professor and an investigator on the food study, who didn’t live in the simulated habitat.

The study put out a call for recipes, and the top ones were featured on their website – they included quiche muffins and a ‘spam-n-egg baowich’.

Lockeed Martin senior research scientist Maya Cooper shows a vegan pizza developed at NASA’s Advanced Food Technology Project at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Pic: AP Photo/Michael Stravato

After the crew emerges, they’ll spend a few days debriefing. They’ll likely be disoriented from the experience, Binsted told Associated Press, but have requested a beach outing before going back to their normal lives.

It will take several months to process all the data the team gathered, and Binsted hopes to present findings at the International Astronautical Congress this year in Beijing.

- Additional reporting AP

Read: Mars is the next challenge for astronauts – but landing is the biggest obstacle>

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