Want to Eat on Your Way to Mars? Don't Hold Your Breath

Jun 16, 2023

No other planet has captivated astronomers, star-gazers, and science fiction fans quite like Mars. Plenty of fictional travelers have set foot on the Red Planet over the years. In reality, though, it would be tough to get there, even for the scientists of NASA. One of the biggest issues? Food.  

Mars is 140 million miles from Earth. With modern technology, it would take seven months to get there. Add on the food to get there and back, and NASA’s looking at packing two years of meals into a small amount of space. This is the reason why NASA started the Deep Space Food Challenge. They are trying to find new ways to feed astronauts during the long trip. 

Many companies are joining the competition to win a $1.5 million prize. One of them is Air Co., led by Stafford Sheehan. He is working on creating tortillas from thin air. 

"Astronaut breath, water, yeast starter, electricity, a rolling pin and we can make it happen," Sheehan told NPR. His equipment uses the carbon dioxide that astronauts breathe out to grow yeast. This yeast can then be turned into an edible paste that can be shaped. And how's it taste? 

"Like wheat gluten, but a little bit sweeter,” Sheehan says.

Other finalists in the competition have come up with ideas like aquarium ecosystems that grow renewable veggies, mushrooms, and bugs. Others suggested energy bars packed with nutrients that can stay good for many years. 

Photo by Monica Garniga courtesy of Unsplash.

Reflect: If you could take any food to space, what would it be and why? 

The author uses the _______ paragraph to explain the initial problem that the Deep Space Food Challenge is trying to help solve. (Common Core RI.5.5; RI.6.5)
a. second
b. third
c. fourth
d. fifth
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