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NASA Working on Mars Menu 220

Posted by samzenpus
from the we're-going-to-need-a-bigger-cooler dept.
DevotedSkeptic writes in with a story about the work going into feeding astronauts on a mission to Mars. "The menu must sustain a group of six to eight astronauts, keep them healthy and happy and also offer a broad array of food. That's no simple feat considering it will likely take six months to get to the Red Planet, astronauts will have to stay there 18 months and then it will take another six months to return to Earth. Imagine having to shop for a family's three-year supply of groceries all at once and having enough meals planned in advance for that length of time. 'Mars is different just because it's so far away,' said Maya Cooper, a senior research scientist with Lockheed Martin who is leading the efforts to build the menu. 'We don't have the option to send a vehicle every six months and send more food as we do for the International Space Station.'"
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NASA Working on Mars Menu

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  • Easy... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Smartcowboy (679871) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @05:40AM (#41245255)

    Easy... [e-monsite.com]

  • MREs (Score:5, Funny)

    by Compaqt (1758360) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @05:41AM (#41245261) Homepage

    'nuff said [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:MREs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday September 06, 2012 @05:47AM (#41245275) Homepage

      From the article you linked to:

      They are intended to be eaten for a maximum of 21 days (the assumption is that logistics units can provide superior rations by then),

      21 days is a lot less than the several months of a Mars journey.

      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        I just wanted to point out the shelf life is 3 years (enough for the 2.5 planned years of a Mars mission).

        It's an acquired taste.

        If you have too cultured of a palate, and you're used to multi-course meals with palate cleansers [about.com] in between, you probably won't last a day with MREs, much less 21.

        • by MRe_nl (306212)

          You can live on MRE's indefinately, but one needs hookers, blow and ammo as essential supplements.

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          Bah, MRE's are for pussies.

          Mainstay 3600 calorie bar is less space than 1 MRE and counts as TWO meals. Enjoy your lemony doom for 180 days....

        • by khallow (566160)
          The bizarre thing is that the "palate cleansers" mentioned in the link have extremely strong and lingering flavors. In my view, a genuine palate cleanser would be water and saltine crackers. They have virtually no flavor, meaning you really do restart your taste buds.
      • Re:MREs (Score:5, Funny)

        by drkim (1559875) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @06:38AM (#41245511)

        From the article you linked to:

        They are intended to be eaten for a maximum of 21 days...

        21 days is a lot less than the several months of a Mars journey.

        No, you read this wrong...

        What that means is; it could take you up to 21 days to choke one of these things down.

    • Meal, Ready to Eat (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mangu (126918) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @06:35AM (#41245497)

      People in the military say that MRE is three lies in one acronym.

      .

      • and thats when they are being POLITE about it.

        but anyway if the stuff is packed as components and Spices/Sauces things should not be to bad (but i would have one of the projects be growing herbs and such).

        3 years of frozen meals is a lot harder than 3 years worth of groceries.

      • Canned cooked bacon ..... eaten cold .... thank god for peanut butter in a tube.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by zerotorr (729953)
      I'm not sure why this got moderated as funny. Alot of time and research has already gone into long term food preparation/storage for the military services. I've lived off them solely for a few months, and while that's not three years, it's not unimaginable. Now, they've faced alot of criticism, but they were never intended to replace 5 star restaurants, or even your grandmother's cooking. Also, much of that criticism is from the military... and anyone who's served knows that complaining is most every sold
  • by Hadlock (143607) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @05:46AM (#41245269) Homepage Journal

    We don't have the option to send a vehicle every six months and send more food as we do for the International Space Station.'"

    No option to resupply? I figured that We would be sending 2-4 tons of supplies to restock every 2-3 months. I mean, it's one thing to hop in the Soyuz capsule and retrograde burn back home, but at the rate things break on the ISS, I can't imagine less than two restocking missions being sent to the mars mission en route, with another set of supplies being sent down every 3 months while they're on the planet. Things break, people get sick, shit happens.

    • by kav2k (1545689) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @05:51AM (#41245293)

      Problem is, the opportunity for a reasonable flight path to Mars is not always there. Windows can be small and far apart.

      • by Cenan (1892902) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @06:30AM (#41245475)

        Well, a resupply module does not need a reasonable flight path, it just needs to be there in time for the astronauts to utilize it.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          That's what I was going to say. If leaving a little later means you get there a lot later then you'll be sending some of the shipments very close together, or even out of order, but it's not like food packets are going to notice some DNA damage.

        • In this instance "reasonable" means "existing boosters can send a decently sized payload". It's not just about travel time, it's also (overwhelmingly) about delta-V requirements.

    • by Salgak1 (20136) <`ten.ysaekaeps' `ta' `kaglas'> on Thursday September 06, 2012 @05:52AM (#41245303) Homepage
      Actually, there IS an option to re-supply. Carry a year's worth onboard, and send an unmanned cargo pod ahead to park in Mars orbit. Put an additional 12 or so months food in it.
    • Indeed. I thought one of the benefits of the plasma engine was the ability to send large payloads very slowly to a destination for almost peanuts, while astronauts could arrive there very quickly with almost nothing. The linch-pin is that you send the payloads a year or two before the astronauts launch, so they arrive at a similar date.

      • by Zocalo (252965) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @06:22AM (#41245425) Homepage
        And if the resupply ship has an incident that somehow prevents its contents from being usable if/when it arrives at the rendezvous, the burn to insert it into Mars orbit fails perhaps, what's the fallback plan going to be? The parameters of a manned Mars mission with current technology pretty much dictate that we'd need to construct and outfit a suitably sized vessel in LEO, meaning bringing such things as landing modules, Mars rovers, supplies etc., up to the craft in multiple launches during construction. That's a lot of mass to LEO, just for the mechanical side of things, so fitting a couple of tons worth of food and other supplies probably isn't going to be a major problem by comparison.

        I'm guessing that NASA has done the math and figured out that it's easier, and possibly cheaper, to send all the food up to LEO and then transfer it to Mars in one go along with the astronauts than it is to engage in multiple interplanetary transfers, each with an orbital rendezvous and risk of failure.
        • by arth1 (260657)

          And if the resupply ship has an incident that somehow prevents its contents from being usable if/when it arrives at the rendezvous, the burn to insert it into Mars orbit fails perhaps, what's the fallback plan going to be?

          The same as before, according to some? I.e. suicide pills, or an equivalent like a gradual poisoning of the air administered by the mission captain.

          Or just sell the TV/video rights to the next few weeks to the highest bidder. It should be interesting.

          But anyhow, we can send ships well ahead of time and not send the flesh load until the supply ships have actually landed safely. It's not like the natives are going to raid and plunder them.

        • by khallow (566160)

          I'm guessing that NASA has done the math and figured out that it's easier, and possibly cheaper, to send all the food up to LEO and then transfer it to Mars in one go along with the astronauts than it is to engage in multiple interplanetary transfers, each with an orbital rendezvous and risk of failure.

          NASA is notorious for flubbing this particular math. If it comes to a choice between using a small vehicle frequently or a large massive, "cost plus"-expensive vehicle, then NASA tends to go for whatever benefits its contractors most of the time (that is, use the big vehicle).

          The advantages of smaller vehicles operating more frequently, is a) they're cheaper per flight due to economies of scale, and b) you can build up a lot of knowledge and experience for difficult tasks using low risk payloads.

          For a

        • by Compaqt (1758360)

          Well, if you're sending the supply ship far enough out in advance, then just make sure it arrived intact (as in video feeds) before you send the people.

      • Indeed. I thought one of the benefits of the plasma engine was the ability to send large payloads very slowly to a destination for almost peanuts, while astronauts could arrive there very quickly with almost nothing. The linch-pin is that you send the payloads a year or two before the astronauts launch, so they arrive at a similar date.

        No, the linchpin is that you send the supply ships ahead of the astronauts. The manned mission doesn't leave the ground till all the supply ships are safely in Mars orbit (o

    • IANARS but what would be the benefit of sending supplies at regular intervals over sending them all at once. Energy cost will be the same.

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        If Bob Kerman gets a penicillin resistant bacterial infection and needs a different type of antibiotic, or Jeb's body for some reason decided it is now lactose intolerant, they can change up the menu, throw in some new DVDs from the summer, include more fuel, spare parts... all sorts of things. Or someone needs an emergency appendectomy, and suddenly there are no more spare bags of blood or anesthetics on board for the next two years. When you go traveling on earth and you realize you forgot to pack sunscre

    • OMG It all comes down to supply chain management again

      For gods sake don't let them use JIT!!!

  • by Kergan (780543) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @05:52AM (#41245305)

    Might it be time to dig out the poop steak hoax and turn it into the real thing?

    • by arth1 (260657)

      Might it be time to dig out the poop steak hoax and turn it into the real thing?

      You're joking, but with a crew of 6-8 people, and a flight time of 180 days, we're talking around 1200-1600 kg of feces. Urine will be recycled, but contain solids too, so add around 100 kg there.

      Then there are the extra female hygiene challenges. While certainly not PC, it might be easier to just say no, and only accept women if they've had hysterectomies or are on period suppressing medication.

      • by drkim (1559875)

        ...only accept women if they've had hysterectomies or are on period suppressing medication.

        Not that controversial. They better be on the (period suppressing) birth-control pill. You don't want any babies getting conceived on the journey.

        • by arth1 (260657)

          That doesn't follow. There are many other ways to deal with fertility, including sterilization (of either gender) and implants.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        we will be leaving a trail of turds in space to mars. do you think they will carry it there and back?

        • When the fecal mass agglutinates, reaches the asteroid belt, agglutinates some more and comes back as a honking great comet which will crash straight into us. (No, I am not serious. A maker of feeble jokes yes, but not entirely ignorant of physics).
      • by azalin (67640)
        Why not grow plants on it? Natural fertilizer and such...
  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @05:57AM (#41245323)
    On the way out, normal rations but watch very closely who is underperforming in their duties.

    On the way back, Soylent Green for dinner.

    Just an idea...
  • by opusman (33143) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @06:19AM (#41245409) Homepage

    Is there any reason a whole lot of canned/freeze-dried food couldn't be sent to Mars in advance? Now that we can target Mars with pretty much pin-point accuracy (within a few dozen KM) there's no reason a bunch of supply missions couldn't be sent before the fleshbots arrive.

  • by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @06:21AM (#41245417)
    We herald in the gastronauts.

    I'll be back after a short break. Don't go changin'.
  • Unmanned supply ships, why not?

    You managed to land a car on mars ffs.

    • sounds like a modern day re-run of the supply problems of the Terra Nova Expedition [wikipedia.org] in 1920 that ended up killing Scott and his team on the return journey from the pole.

    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @08:14AM (#41246005) Journal

      You managed to land a car on mars ffs.

      Good point, landing a hot dog stand can't be that much harder.

  • Send them waffles and bacon!

    Oh, and always promise them cake, but never give it to them.

  • Not hard to do. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @06:49AM (#41245551) Homepage

    You want calorie dense nutrient dense foods. I can fit in a single backpack all the food needed by one person for 30 days. Problem is they will go insane eating the same ration day in and day out.

    The other aspect is also choosing foods that have a higher conversion factor so the waste elimination is compact and less frequent. You cant go high protein as you have a limited supply of water and you have to have water to process protein. So it 's a balance that is hard to figure out.

    The article summary is very wrong, " Imagine having to shop for a family's three-year supply of groceries all at once and having enough meals planned in advance for that length of time." is really easy. Imagine having to shop for a family's three-year supply of groceries all at once and having enough meals planned in advance for that length of time that dont use too much water from your finite limited supply of water and reduces the excrement output of the entire family to be as small as possible.

    THAT is what NASA is trying to do, it's massively harder than planning a 3 year grocery list.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      This story typifies what's wrong with NASA these days. No astronauts are going to Mars for the forseeable future. And even if a mission were approved it would take a decade's planning and minor tasks like this could be knocked off in a few months. They're reduced to trumpeting these irrelevancies in the absence of any real achievements.
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        So you are telling me they can figure this out a month before launch? Why dont you send them your resume' as it seems you are a lot smarter than the scientists that work there. Nahh dont do any testing and trials, just guess and push the launch button!

        • by khallow (566160)

          So you are telling me they can figure this out a month before launch?

          Actually, yes they could with off the shelf stuff such as vacuum bagging and freeze drying. There might be a modest degree of inefficiency in terms of mass using tools not intended for space flight. Frankly, the critical issues are experience with manned deep space flight and extended duration missions, developing a vehicle or vehicles that can travel to and land on Mars, and development and deployment of Mars-side infrastructure. NASA has a vast amount of experience with storing food in space.

          There isn'

    • I read somewhere that dog food experts were consulted about how to minimize poop from food. Apparently, dog food already has the quality of getting your dog full while minimizing poop generation. But they were questioning whether or not astronauts would appreciate their food being associated with the makers of Alpo or whatever.

    • by azalin (67640)
      Every major expedition on a sailing vessel faced the "pack enough food" problem a few hundred years ago. If it where only "enough food" you could dig up some 17th century freight lists, add some vitamins and be good. The problems lie in weight, preparation, waste (what it comes in and what it comes out as) and stability/shelf life.
  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @07:17AM (#41245691) Homepage

    Imagine having to shop for a family's three-year supply of groceries all at once and having enough meals planned in advance for that length of time.

    Then forget that idea, because it's nothing like that.

  • Stupid (Score:3, Funny)

    by puddingebola (2036796) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @07:20AM (#41245717) Journal
    Top Ramen Dumbass... every college student knows that
  • The military has already solved this problem reasonably well with MREs. Another possible solution would be to have progress-like spacecrafts to restock, carefully scheduling the launch dates for them to do a job similar to what they already do to the ISS. In short, do not try to send everything at once (would need a very large ship), send gradually and continuously.
  • Sending people to mars is one thing. You schedule it to take the shortest route. But sending equipment and supplies is different. They should be sending supplies for 10 years prior to the mission.

    The hard part is getting the stuff into orbit. Then you blast it on any convenient trajectory available. You don't have to go very fast at all. In fact you want it to have plenty of fuel when it gets there so that it can park itself in orbit and then be brought down anywhere on the planet using probably the bumper

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The food will super freeze so it might be necessary to make a reverse fridge to insulate the food and keep heat inside the storage compartment

      You insulate the compartment with aerogel, and the same power source used to run the mission (an RTG, hopefully) is used to operate heaters once on the ground.

      It would certainly be interesting to see how cheeses behaved in space.

  • Not be Mr negativity, but this is some of the reason why many say that NASA is becoming a failed experiment not worthy of federal funding. I don't mean to discount what they do and what they have done. But sometimes, they spend far more effort engineering than actually producing which is what makes it really hard to secure public buy-in over time.

    You can re-supply a mission to the planet, you can accomplish many things but NASA's model of 6 years development for a 20 year mission isn't closing the gap fas

  • All they need is a good supply of molded protein [wikiquote.org]. With a little ingenuity, you can even make a birthday cake out of it!

  • Seriously. Wouldn't it make sense to launch several unmanned "shipping containers" of food and supplies well ahead of the manned craft, set to land near the proposed landing site, and to continue to send such craft during the mission timeline? (I'm aware that Earth and Mars are both in motion and travel times vary, but given the long run-up to a manned mission, there would be a lot of viable windows to launch such "advance craft".) Make plans for at least one, if not more, such launches during the on-ground

  • by careysub (976506) on Thursday September 06, 2012 @03:37PM (#41252469)

    TFA:

    Already, Cooper's team of three has come up with about 100 recipes, all vegetarian because the astronauts will not have dairy or meat products available. It isn't possible to preserve those products long enough to take to Mars - and bringing a cow on the mission is not an option, Cooper jokes.

    Can anyone suggest to me why powdered milk, and freeze-dried or liquid nitrogen frozen meat would not last for the three year voyage? One vendor freeeze-dired meat entrees claims they last 7 years: http://www.mtnhse.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=M&Category_Code=MHDL [mtnhse.com]

    Is there some constraint that they are not telling us about?

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