When Americans decide to go to Mars or to other places outside Earth orbit, there is one thing they cannot ignore. This is Thanksgiving.
NASA scientists are working on technologies to extend the shelf life of products up to 7 years. This is three times more than the food can withstand on board the International Space Station. This was said by Cloeris, manager of the space nutrition laboratory at the Johnson Space Center in Texas.
But this does not mean that food products, including a gala dinner, which NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Winston are sharing with crew members aboard the space station on Thursday, are unsafe after two years of storage. True, says Cloeris, they may not be so tasty or they will not be so much.
Taste and nutrition are one of the main problems facing scientists. Now they are busy developing products that will make astronauts happy, healthy and productive during the three years of their flight to Mars.
Since the food will go to the Martian surface before people arrive there, NASA believes that it should have a shelf life of 5 to 7 years. Astronauts will have to eat the oldest products for 6-9 months on their way home.
A 7-year-old turkey may not seem very appetizing, but NASA, in collaboration with military researchers, is considering two promising technologies that could turn theory into reality. The first method is high pressure processing. It resembles the process of cooking canned foods, but uses less heat and more pressure.
“The idea is that your initial (food) quality after processing will be the best, as well as the initial content of nutrients. And all because of the fact that you used less heat, ”said Cloiris.
Better quality will increase shelf life.
The high-pressure process is already used for some refrigerated products (for example, guacamole in a bag), which, if prepared in a method such as canned food, will turn black instead of green.
The second method is microwave sterilization, which works by rapidly heating and rapidly cooling products. Since heat is applied for a shorter period of time, theoretically, the product should be of higher quality and remain edible longer.
NASA also understands how diverse the products must be in order to maintain the crew's physical, mental and emotional health.
“Food is important in many ways,” said former astronaut Sandy Magnus. “Human beings gather around food for social purposes.” Think about all those times when you met with friends in restaurants or bars, and shared food. ”
“When guests come to you, then most often you go directly to the kitchen. Being able to gather for cooking, sharing and cleaning is very important socially and psychologically, ”she said. Features of logistics may be different in outer space, but the idea is the same. This was said by Magnus, who experimented with cooking while working aboard the station.
Among the 200 (or so) different foods in the pantry, there are also components of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Including sliced turkey, corn bread, green beans, mushrooms and various desserts.
The only thing that astronauts have and what land celebrants do not have is cherished places of sight, from which the Earth can be seen in outer space.
“A holiday or not, but the view ... It makes us appreciate the beauty and magic of the planet on which we live,” Magnus writes in an e-mail. “If for holidays we managed to feel all this beauty (deep blue sky, a breath of wind through the leaves of trees, the smell of rain after a storm), then there would be much less negative in the world. Unfortunately, we rarely stop to appreciate the really important things that surround us. ”