A group of six scientists ended their 4-month simulated mission to the planet Mars on Tuesday. According to Discovery.com, the team lived in a mock-up of a Mars vehicle that was positioned on the side of a Hawaiian volcano, where they experimented with different instant foods and other provisions in an effort to figure out how future astronauts will eat as they journey to the Earth's nearest terrestrial neighbor.
The mission was called the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog & Simulation (HI-SEAS) and it began in mid-April. On Tuesday, when mission commander Angelo Vermeulen emerged from the training capsule, he tweeted, "We have landed. #hiseas Mission 1 is officially over."
For 118 days, Vermeulen and his five team members experimented with a variety of non-perishable ingredients and kept detailed journals of their health, well-being, weight and body mass to determine what foods would be best for a manned Mars mission.
Vermeulen told Leslie Mullen of Astrobiology magazine that certain conclusions were immediately apparent from the experiment.
"Ingredients that will be essential for future space missions on Mars or the moon will include spices, herbs and hot sauce," he said. "But also comfort food such as Nutella, peanut butter and margarine. And then enough ingredients rich in fiber. The problem with shelf-stable ingredients is that they're usually highly processed and hence lacking fiber. We enjoy wheat bread, rye crackers, nuts, and dried fruits, for example."
The HI-SEAS crew didn't just spend four months cooking and eating. At regular intervals, crew members would don space suits and head outside to explore the surrounding terrain and perform microbe checks for organisms in the soil and examine local geological samples.
Other food studies for long space voyages are underway. NASA recently awarded a $125,000 grant to a researcher who is exploring the possibilities of 3-D printing as a means of producing nutritious, non-perishable foods.
Sending humans to Mars is currently NASA's top priority. Scientists hope to have a mission on its way to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, then onward to Mars by the mid-2030s.
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