Astronauts to enjoy a bespoke Martian menu

 作者:胡噍     |      日期:2019-02-27 06:19:03
By Stuart Clark (Image: NASA-GRC) The European Space Agency might not have a spacecraft capable of getting to Mars yet, but it knows what its astronauts will eat once they get there. The agency has developed a nine-ingredient menu designed to keep the space-farers healthy – in body and mind. The ingredients – rice, onions, tomatoes, soya, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, wheat and a protein-rich alga called spirulina – will be organic, GM-free and grown onsite by the astronauts themselves. “This is the first step in a long process of characterising the nutritional value of the plants versus the nutritional needs of the astronauts,” says Christel Paille of ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. “In almost all cases, our astronauts say the quality and diversity of their food and beverages could be improved,” she told New Scientist. So ESA asked two French companies to produce recipes with the nine ingredients. They came back with a range of options, including ‘Martian bread and green tomato jam’, ‘Spirulina gnocchi’ and ‘Potato and tomato mille-feuilles’. Bed-rest studies, in which subjects lie down for months to simulate some of the physiological effects of microgravity, are revealing the boredom factor associated with bland food. At a medical level, the experiments can also help pin down the nutritional requirements needed to counteract the muscle wastage and bone loss associated with long haul spaceflight. This work is the latest in a 15-year ESA project called the Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELISSA). MELISSA uses human waste to produce water, oxygen and food. The idea is to create a self-supporting ecosystem on Mars so astronauts will not have to lug large food and oxygen cargos from Earth. Growing plants in special greenhouses – not to mention making gnocchi from scratch on Mars – could be labour-intensive. Paille hopes the tasks might allow astronauts to unwind in the same way people relax by tending gardens on Earth. But she adds that the system could be designed to be largely autonomous if the astronauts did not want – or did not have time for – the chores. But one crucial part of the farming will take no special effort. “Our astronauts will produce all the fertiliser we need,