Good News, Future Colonists! Mars Meals May Feature Nutella

And also seafood chowder ... and curried noodles ... and Spam.
More
[IMAGE DESCRIPTION]
A team member, leaving the dome, ventures out into the "Martian" landscape. (NASA)

On the northern slope of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, on a barren lava field at 8,000 feat above sea level, six researchers have spent the last four months living in a dome. And, when venturing beyond the dome, wearing space suits. And, beyond that, sleeping. And eating. And cooking.

Their task? To simulate what life on Mars might be like for humans -- barren terrain, clothing requirements, and all. Their specific task in all this was to focus on the food: to think about what culinary concoctions might be appropriate for the Mars colonists of the future.

To do this, the researchers -- selected by both the University of Hawaii and Cornell University and funded by NASA -- prepared meals from a pre-determined list of foods: foods that are dehydrated, preserved, un-perishable, and, for all that, generally unpalatable. It was essentially Iron Chef, with the mystery ingredient being Mars. The team's job was to make the food, somehow, enjoyable and interesting -- the better for Mars colonists to combat both the malnutrition and the food boredom that can come with long-haul trips to other planets. They did their cooking in the kitchen area of their two-story, Mars-appropriate dome.

So what did the researchers -- and the people who suggested recipes for them to try out -- come up with? Lots of stuff involving Spam, for one thing, including a Cajun jambalaya and a dish that married the canned meat with curry and fried noodles. A chicken-spinach-enchilada soup, for another. Seafood chowder, for another. And borscht. Freeze-dried fruit, too, they found, was surprisingly similar in taste to fresh produce. As for comfort food -- crucial when it comes to the combating-food-boredom aspect of things -- a universal hit was ... Nutella. "It's something we craved," team commander Angelo Vermeulen told the AP. "We had a limited supply so we had to ration it."

Now that the food-experiment stage is over, the team will now be processing the data gathered from their four-month-long Mars simulation. They're planning to present findings at the International Astronautical Congress in Beijing later this year. In the meantime, though, one data point is clear: Future Mars colonists will likely be missing their access to farmers' markets. One of the first things the team members did when they emerged from their "Martian" habitat, the AP notes, was to have a buffet breakfast. "They went straight to the fruits and vegetables," Kim Binsted, a UH-Manoa associate professor who helped oversee the study, pointed out. "They seemed delighted to have fresh fruits and vegetables."

Jump to comments
Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Fascinating Short Film About the Multiverse

If life is a series of infinite possibilities, what does it mean to be alive?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In