Wanted: Taste Testers of Astronaut Food


Calling all space geeks and food connoisseurs: Researchers at Cornell University are looking for volunteers to test out menus designed for astronauts on missions to Mars.

The researchers need people to spend four months in a simulated Mars habitat located in Hawaii’s lava fields, living exactly like astronauts would — donning spacesuits and eating only space-ready food — and providing feedback on the lifestyle.

Jean Hunter, an associate professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell, told the Cornell Chronicle that a biggest food issue in the space-travel field has been that astronauts get sick of eating the same food every day and start to eat less, which puts them at risk for nutritional deficiency. Hunter hypothesized that the problem could be solved if astronauts cooked and gardened while on a landed mission — an idea she will test out during the NASA-sponsored Hawaii study, which will take place early next year.

The research agency is covering the travel, food, and lodging expenses of the study’s participants and will provide them with a stipend and completion bonus. Space-ready volunteers who have a bachelor’s degree in a science field, and are in really good health, should fill out an application by February 29.