Picky Eaters Need Not Apply: NASA Seeks Taste Testers for Mars Simulation

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If you can you stomach four months of experimental Mars-appropriate cooking, NASA has an experience that seems ready-made for a reality TV show.

NASA wants to figure out how it would feed astronauts a balanced, healthy diet if they take a three-year trip to the red planet. To help simulate the creative cooking juices and test out some theories, NASA is asking for interested cooks to sign up for four-month Mars simulation on a Hawaiian lava flow.

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Participants must don imitation spacesuits, eat what astronauts currently digest, track and measure their food intake and even try their hand at cooking, using a limited array of ingredients.

The study, operated in part by Cornell University and the University of Hawaii, hopes to figure out what foods the faux-astronauts don’t get sick of (“menu fatigue”), what ingredients lend itself to easy preparation in an environment that makes cooking “nearly impossible” and what balance NASA should strike in time (wasted) preparing meals versus time that could be spent researching while in space.

While one requirement for the assignment (you can apply here by Feb. 29) is a “willingness and ability to eat a wide range of foods,” would-be participants must also hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological or physical sciences, mathematics or computer science, as testing food won’t be the only activity they carry out as they simulate the living and working conditions on the lava flow base (the closest thing we have on Earth to Mars).

As study participants compile recipes and cooking tips to improve the food system for planetary missions, they too can enjoy the beauty of rehydrated meals.

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