Business Unusual

Humans will be returning to the moon, but how will they be fed?

The usual focus of stories about manned missions to Mars revolves around the means to get there and how to survive the harsh environment, but a significant focus by scientists and engineers is how to keep those traveling in space fed.

With NASA having secured the budget it needs to commission manned missions to the moon, the plans for space nutrition is worth exploring.

The International Space Station (ISS) is the best laboratory for how best to keep humans alive in space and what foods work.

The ISS stores many months worth of specially created and packed food that is both nutritionally balanced and easy to store and consume.

Watch how food is prepared on board the ISS

The reality though is that it requires a lot of sacrifices. The most significant one is fresh products such as fruit. Fresh fruit is sent in re-supply missions, but they are consumed first and do not last long after it arrives.

Even something as simple as salt and pepper needs to be be kept in a liquid form to prevent the issues of sprinkling something in zero gravity.

There have been supply issues to the ISS when a resupply ship has failed or a liftoff gets delayed, but the frequency and time it takes to get supplies to the ISS is a very different prospect to what would be needed even with an orbiting station around the moon and even more so with operations on the moon or on mars.

The challenges of distance and weight require us to create food in space, not shuttle it.

You can't simply use salt and pepper in zero gravity, the condiments need to be used in liquid form. Picture credit: NASA

Hydroponics

The common use of hydroponics today comes from the space program in the 80s looking at growing food without using heavy soil and dramatically reducing water use. Hydroponics achieves both; using no soil and about 1% of the water of plants grown in the ground.

It still it limited to certain foods that work well and would also be susceptible to a bacterial or fungal attack. Should a crop fail in space, the option to restart it would be very difficult.

A crop that is being tested as one of the first staples is the potato and there is currently an International Potato Center growing potatoes on Mars-like conditions to find the best variety for the missions.

A separate experiment underway is to explore 3D printing food so that nutrient sources can be recombined into something that looks more appealing to astronauts and can allow for a greater variety of food types created from a set of basic ingredients. Pizza was the first attempt.

Taking animals into space is a whole different ball game and they are unlikely to feature until a there is a manned moon base.

Fish are likely to be the first to join us for our travels and may even be part of the plant farming operation in a process known as aquaponics.

Astronaut Don Petit maintained a very entertain blog written from the point of view of the baby marrow plant he grew as part of his studies on the ISS in 2011.

While the blog was a way to public report on the experiments, there is a potential added benefit to having space travellers tend plants, it may work as a form of horticultural therapy that may be just what is needed on the expected seven-month voyage to Mars.

There are many problems still to address and overcome. The opportunity is not only in allowing us to survive off-world but to possibly solve challenges with current agricultural issues as a result.

The space program is full of everyday projects that grew from a specific problem in space. Water filters, smoke detectors, the computer mouse, cordless drills, ceiling insulation all come from solving problems associated with space travel.


This article first appeared on 702 : Humans will be returning to the moon, but how will they be fed?


Recommended

by NEWSROOM AI

CapeTalk welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the CapeTalk community a safe and welcoming space for all.

CapeTalk reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

CapeTalk is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
To buy or not to buy? That is the question

To buy or not to buy? That is the question

The pros and cons of subscribing to versus buying digital content.

It took a war to change shipping. What will it take to change transport?

It took a war to change shipping. What will it take to change transport?

As hype begins to grow around the Hyperloop, will it change how we travel or run out of track?

Scale may no longer be the best way to achieve growth

Scale may no longer be the best way to achieve growth

Grow or die is the law of the jungle, but does it still apply outside of the jungle?

Will 5G communications make access universal or create another digital divide?

Will 5G communications make access universal or create another digital divide?

The super fast new mobile internet may change the world, but it might not be for the better.

How to win elections and influence people

How to win elections and influence people

You could say elections are being disrupted.

Technology disrupted tax income, but nobody escapes taxes

Technology disrupted tax income, but nobody escapes taxes

Digital companies have had a good run, but new taxes are coming.

Popular articles
Survivor winner Tom Swartz vows to buy his wife 'new boobies and a family house'

Survivor winner Tom Swartz vows to buy his wife 'new boobies and a family house'

Swartz says he would have done anything to get the R1 million prize money.

'There is no way Magnus Malan could've done the things he is accused of'

'There is no way Magnus Malan could've done the things he is accused of'

Former police minister Adriaan Vlok has rejected accusations that former minister Malan was at the centre of a paedophile ring.

'He told me people would want to keep him quiet at any cost'

'He told me people would want to keep him quiet at any cost'

Journalist Gavin Evans says the late Mark Minnie spoke to him about his fears that those he exposed in his book might harm him.

'There is no verse in the Quran that says women should cover their faces'

'There is no verse in the Quran that says women should cover their faces'

Dr Taj Hargey says he is advocating for the ban of women wearing burkas in public because they look ridiculous.