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First Foods: An origin story of cuisine beyond the Kármán line

Published onMay 18, 2020
First Foods: An origin story of cuisine beyond the Kármán line

As human spaceflight ventures farther from the Kármán line – the border between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, we face greater challenges to supply astronauts with nutritious food. Prepackaged foods occupy limited area, contribute to vehicle mass, and can start nutritionally destabilizing within 1-3 years in space.  Growing fresh produce on transit vehicles or another planetary body, such as Mars, could alleviate the shortcomings of prepackaged foods and provide additional benefits for crew members.

The Greenhouse Attachment for the Ice Home Architecture (GAIA), a Marsboreal Greenhouse Design finalist for the 2019 NASA BIG Idea Challenge, created a crop-centric system that met the nutritional requirements for a 4-person astronaut crew. We selected 20 crops based on feasibility such as biology & genetics, shelf life & durability in transit, and growth system constraints. These crops also fulfill a nutrition niche and maximize culinary potential. The greenhouse features black soldier flies, which are contained, consume greenhouse waste, and are edible as black soldier fly larvae (BSFL). 

The chefs at Hank and Bean, LLC, have curated these crops for our interplanetary pioneers, bringing a sense of home cooking to life away from Earth. Staple crop typologies of whole grain brown rice, BSFL, red skin and sweet potato tuber, and sunflower showcase a handful of the countless ingredients that can be created in a Martian kitchen. These ingredients constitute meal options for a five “sol” work week complete with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and, of course, dessert – each more mouthwatering than the last! Beyond the menu, find the ingredient and full plate recipes for a featured breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Lastly, these example recipes are used to model the level of daily nutrient requirements achieved by each of the 4 astronauts could achieve. The nutrition analysis has been conducted by a crop-comparison nutrition database created for GAIA.



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