NASA & CSA set food production challenge for longer space missions

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With demand for more space travel rocketing NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) have set a challenge for companies to develop novel food production methods that will endure longer flights, potentially to Mars. Together the space agencies have launched their Deep Space Food Challenge.

In phase 1 NASA has put up US$500,000 as a prize fund to teams from the US, whilst the CSA has allocated CAD$300,000 in prizes for Canadian teams.

The goal of the mission is for the teams to create novel and game-changing food technologies or systems that require minimal inputs and maximise safe, nutritious, and palatable food outputs for long-duration space missions, and which also have the potential to benefit people on Earth.

With longer spaceflights there is the need to be able to supply and preserve food for extended periods but current technology does not meet those requirements. Types and durations of future lunar missions constantly evolve and mature based on new technological advances and scientific input. Space agencies need to address long-duration missions and how to provide future crews with safe, nutritious food while in lunar orbit, on the lunar surface or much further afield on a mission to Mars.

NASA recognises that food insecurity is also a significant chronic problem on Earth in urban, rural and harsh environments and communities, it notes disasters can also disrupt supply chains, on which all people depend, and further aggravate food shortages.

Efficient use of volume, water, and other inputs for producing food could enable technologies with reduced impact on the resources needed for food production here on Earth, especially in extreme environments and resource-scarce regions”. states NASA.“Our focus is on providing future space explorers and people on Earth nutritious foods they will enjoy.”

The Deep Space Food Challenge will identify food production technologies that can:

  • Help fill food gaps for a three-year round-trip mission with no resupply
  • Feed a crew of four astronauts
  • Improve the accessibility of food on Earth, in particular, via production directly in urban centres and in remote and harsh environments
  • Achieve the greatest amount of food output with minimal inputs and minimal waste
  • Create a variety of palatable, nutritious, and safe foods that requires little processing time for crew members

The Prize!

NASA has allocated US$500,000 for Phase 1 of the competition which will fund up to 20 top scoring teams from the US who will receive $25,000 each and be invited to compete in Phase 2.

The CSA has also allocated CAD$300,000 for Phase 1 which will fund up to 10 top scoring teams from Canada who will receive CAD$30,000 each and be invited to compete in Phase 2.

The 10 top scoring international teams will be recognised as Challenge winners.

NASA is providing the prize purse for US teams and the Methuselah Foundation will be conducting the Challenge on behalf of NASA. Phase 1 of the Deep Space Food Challenge will be conducted virtually. Phase 2 will be launched depending on the outcome of Phase 1.

More information can be found at www.deepspacefoodchallenge.org.

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About Author

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Chris McCullough is a freelance multi-media journalist based in Northern Ireland and specialises in all aspects of agriculture. He has spent the past 18 years travelling the globe hunting for the best stories in food, farming and politics. He has reported extensively from overseas, mostly throughout Europe but also from USA, Canada, India, Australia and African countries on various topics. He has won a number of awards for his photos and journalism and is always on the lookout for his next exclusive.

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