Taste Testing Going To Galactic Level
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Food criticism is being placed on a whole new level, or to be more accurate, it’s being placed on a galactic level with a new Mars food taste tester mission.
Researchers have selected six individuals out of 700 applications to make up the crew of a simulated Mars mission that is intended to test new forms of food and food preparation strategies for deep-space travel.
“It was very difficult to narrow the pool down. We had about 150 highly qualified applicants, and pretty much everyone we interviewed would have done very well in the habitat,” Kim Binsted, associate professor of information and computer sciences at UH Manoa and a member of the research team conducting the study, said in a press release. “We ended up with a fantastic crew, including the reserve crew, who are ready to step in if someone on the prime crew has to leave the study for some reason.”
The researchers have dwindled it down to just nine applications, three of which will be making up the reserve crew.
The finalists who have been chosen out of the applicants participated in a first phase of testing and training held back in mid-June.
The crew will be participating in a two-week training session in late 2012, prior to the four-month simulation mission in early 2013 on Hawaii Island. Once the team gets to the island, they will be required to live and work like astronauts, including suiting up in space gear whenever they have to simulate stepping out of to a Martian base.
Each of the team members will also have a personal project that they will be working on during the mission.
Jean Hunter, associate professor of biological and environmental engineering and a researcher on the project, said one of the biggest challenges astronauts will face on deep-space missions is menu fatigue.
The team may tend to eat less food as they tire of the menu items, which can put them at risk for nutritional deficiency, loss of bone and muscle mass and reduced physical capabilities.
The mission will test whether crew nutrition, food intake and food satisfaction can be improved if crews cook for themselves.
The team will also compare the palpability of available instant foods and food prepared by the crew, and determine whether food preferences change over time.
The researchers will be comparing the time, power and water required for meal preparation, and clean up for instant and crew-cooked foods.
The selected crew includes:
- Oleg Abramov, a research space scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology branch in Flagstaff, Ariz.
- Simon Engler, a scientific programmer specializing in robotics currently on an internship at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh
- Kate Greene, a science and technology journalist, amateur filmmaker and avid open-water swimmer who lives in San Francisco
- Sian Proctor, a geology professor at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix
- Yajaira Sierra-Sastre, a materials scientist and educator who is working with disadvantaged school districts and communities in Puerto Rico
- Angelo Vermeulen, a biologist, space researcher and artist from Belgium