Printed Space Food: All the Calories, But Still Missing Something

By Kate Greene | May 24, 2013 12:25 pm 

The other day I had to figure out what to make for dinner. On this mission, we have plenty of raw ingredients — pastas, tofu, dehydrated beef, freeze-dried vegetables, and even complete meals — so I puzzled over my options for some time. My turn to “cook” fell on a day that we were required, by the HI-SEAS food study, to use just-add-water-and-heat foods only. In the end, I went with a dehydrated meal of sweet and sour pork with rice. On the side, I added rehydrated green beans, couscous and some pouches of instant paneer makhani in case the sweet and sour pork turned out to be a dud. From concept to sit-down dinner for six, the whole process took about 35 minutes.

Not bad. But to be honest, on that day, I’d rather have spent the time doing something else. It would have been awfully nice to simply turn to a Star Trek-like replicator and pull out plates of perfectly layered lasagna. And I know I’m not alone in thinking this. That’s why recent news that NASA awarded a $125,000 grant to a company developing a 3-D food printer for future space missions got so much attention. After all, it promises to reduce time in the kitchen with a sci-fi flourish. But should printed food be the future of sustenance on remote space outposts? Based on my experiences living and eating on this simulated Mars mission, I’m not so sure.

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Professor of Physics, Director of Undergraduate Research, STEM Consultant, STEAM Practitioner

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