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Space Science Technology

'Haute Cuisine' on Mars 295

Roland Piquepaille writes "If you're lucky enough to be a crew member of one of the next European Space Agency (ESA) long-term missions, you will have the choice between eleven new delicious recipes, such as 'martian bread and green tomato jam' or 'potato and tomato mille-feuilles' when it's time for dinner. In 'Ready for dinner on Mars?,' ESA says that these recipes will use fresh ingredients grown in greenhouses built on Mars colonies or other planets. The future astronauts -- should I write 'farmonauts'? -- will grow potatoes, onions, rice, soya or lettuce. And it's interesting to note that the new menus were elaborated with the help of Alain Ducasse, the French chef who has almost as many stars in the 'Guide Michelin' as there are planets in our Solar system. This overview contains more details and references about eating in space."
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'Haute Cuisine' on Mars

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  • I used to want to go into space...but if I have to eat that damned Frenchy food while I'm up there, forget it.

    (Note: This post may seem like flamebait, but I really do hate the French, so I feel I'm justified.)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      No biggie, they hate us, too.... and unlike us, they have justification.
    • Re:Oh well... (Score:2, Interesting)

      French cusine is actually some of the best food. Just becuase you don't like modern French politics or social habits doesn't mean you have to throw away their entire rich cultural history.
      • Just becuase you don't like modern French politics or social habits doesn't mean you have to throw away their entire rich cultural history.

        No, thats because you don't like historical French politics or social habits.

      • French cusine is actually some of the best food.
        The best food for what? If you mean for building business for the medical and pharmaceutical industries, I can go along with that. "Yes, I'll have my butter drenched in more butter, on top of my cheese, thank you."

        But as food? Far too heavy for my taste (although I do like brie occasionally). I'm generally into the left-coast sushi, grilled everything, and twigs-and-berries diet.
        • Re:Oh well... (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          And you know what? With all of that butter, cream, cheese, lard, etc they will still have a better blood lipid profile and heart health than sushi, grilled everything, twigs and berries diet. Not to mention it is more satisfying and nutrient packed, so a little food can go a long way while that twigs and berries diet is very carbohydrate rich, but nutrient poor. Guess what that means: you have to eat far far more calories to actually get the necessary vitamins (which can only be absorbed in the presence
        • personally I find French food to be not heavy enough for my taste...

          I'd prefer my butter drenched in crisco on top of my cheese and then deep fried.. preferably breaded in that mixture used to make corndogs. :)

          (you'd never know I'm actually a very skinny guy reading that either...)

          but umm anyway... food on mars? yay?
      • Re:Oh well... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mbbac ( 568880 )
        It's also the basis for most other modern cuisines.
    • Re:Oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:51PM (#12826306) Homepage
      This post may seem like flamebait, but I really do hate the French, so i feel I'm justified

      What sort of argument is "I'm a bigot, so I shouldn't get modded down"? What's next - +5 for someone saying "Before you mark me as a troll, understand that I really do hate Jews"?
  • by hydroxy ( 863799 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:02PM (#12825848)
    Unfortunetly, all plants grown on Mars will still be freeze-dried before eaten.
    • Re:Just add water (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:15PM (#12825955) Homepage Journal
      Unfortunetly, all plants grown on Mars will still be freeze-dried before eaten.

      *chuckle* No, they really are thinking about growing the food. :-)

      The article was interesting (despite the fact that the ESA seems to be already picking out foods for a mission they don't yet have [wikipedia.org]), but I would have liked to know more about how they planned to grow food on Mars. For example, the soil samples seem to tell us all kinds of different things about the actual composition of Martian soil. Have we found a concensus on what materials we'll need to bring to grow plants. Last I heard, nitrogen was going to be the biggest issue.

      The other thing I'd like to see is someone actually developing a Martian greenhouse design. However you make it, you'll want the greenhouse to be light, portable, and easy to setup. My current thoughts are that a transparent, inflatable tarp would do the trick. We'd first need to know what the minimum pressure is that the plants require before we design the tarp. Hopefully, they can survive in pressures similar to Mars's surface. That knowledge could then be used to develop a greenhouse that works like this:

      1. The tarp would be planted into the ground. Depending on the pressure required, it could either be nailed in with stakes (how primitive, but effective) or a stiff ring could be buried into the ground, thus creating an airtight seal.

      2. CO2 could then be pumped from the surrounding atomosphere into the greenhouse. Depending on the plant, a certain amount of oxygen may need to be initially pumped in.

      3. The pump system should move air in and out of the tarp area. Oxygen would be separated out, and replacement CO2 would be pumped from outside.

      So far, so good. But then what about solar energy? Does enough energy reach Mars' surface to support these plants? Does artifical lighting need to be added? (I guess that's why they went with potatos. Little to no light necessary.)
      • Re:Just add water (Score:3, Interesting)

        by FleaPlus ( 6935 )
        The other thing I'd like to see is someone actually developing a Martian greenhouse design.

        I've commented about this in the past, but here's a quote from the Wikipedia article on Elon Musk [wikipedia.org]:

        In 2001, Musk had plans for a "Mars Oasis" project [spaceref.com], which would land a miniature experimental greenhouse on Mars, containing food crops growing on Martian regolith. He put this project on hold when he discovered that launch costs would dwarf the mission development and construction costs for the project, and decided t
      • Re:Just add water (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:33PM (#12826148) Homepage
        Mars's pressure is little higher than a vacuum. NASA has been doing experiments to get plants to grow in the sparsest atmosphere possible [nasa.gov]. Currently, if the pressure gets too low, plants think that there's a drought even if they're given plenty of water and kept at 100% humidity.

        As for light, Mars gets half the sunlight we do on Earth; plenty of plants on Earth grow in partial shade.
      • Looks like potatos [purdue.edu] need light as well. Just because the root grows underground doesn't mean the plant as a whole doesn't need light.
        • In my experience, potatos will happily grow even with little to no light. My family used to keep large bags of potatos in the storage room in the basement, and pull them out as needed. Oddly, the potatos would occasionally sprout some pretty impressive roots.

          Anecdotal, I know, but it seems that potatos hold up pretty well in low light. :-)
  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:03PM (#12825852) Homepage
    "I HATE midichlorian stew!"

    "Shut up and eat, kid. You want to grow up to be big and strong like your father, don't you?"
  • how are those chefs going to keep their hats from floating away in space?

    Luckily in space, no one can hear Gaston say "Sacre blu!".
  • by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:05PM (#12825870)
    Once you pick the antennas off, and drain all the green ichor, the stuff's pretty good! Looking forward to the first Martian fast food restaurant to open "Barsoom King", with its slogan "Take me to your eater!"
  • by views ( 818215 )
    Count me out. I'll wait for McDonald to open first
  • by hugerobot ( 634548 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:06PM (#12825880)
    -- should I write 'farmonauts'? -- No... you should not. Some things can not be un-read.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:06PM (#12825882)
    Don't read the overview. Just more ad revenues for him. (Info on Roland Piquepaille) [thedarkcitadel.com]
  • Iron Chef Martian... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:07PM (#12825890) Journal
    And today's ingredient is...

    Chlorella! [wikipedia.org]

  • in greenhouses built on Mars colonies or other planets.

    Er, what other planets? Other than Earth I'm not aware of any other planet which has the potential for allowing greenhouses to be built. At least none that are close enough to allow resupply of food without a multi-year trip.

    Was this a slipup or are the folks at the ESA not telling us something (tinfoil hat goes on).

    P.S. To see some of the stories you've been missing, check out my journal.

    • Re:Other planets? (Score:2, Interesting)

      Moon might be conceivable given that the term planet isn't very firmly defined. The moon's poles might be usable for greenhouses.

      Other possibilities might be orbital greenhouses around venus, earth or mars. Much further out and the insolation amount is questionable but possible with mirrors to focus more energy. Of course, other than earth orbiting greenhouse, these are even more unlikely than the moon.
  • Cut to a scene of a bunch of green aliens running around, making strange sounds.
  • by Compulawyer ( 318018 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:11PM (#12825923)
    I have not noticed any posts from Roland in a long while. It was nice while it lasted.
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:11PM (#12825926) Journal
    And it's interesting to note that the new menus were elaborated with the help of Alain Ducasse, the French chef

    No specific offense to the French intended, but as a vegetarian, I can think of much better choices to have designed the menu (not to mention, not everyone likes real French-style food).

    Indian food, for example, has a truly huge variation of veggie-only dishes, as does Spanish (though on that, I'll admit, my experience with it involves mostly South-American-Spanish, not Southern-Europe-Spanish food). Greek has a decent selection as well, and you replace the lamb with falafel for most of the rest.

    But French? The French have a reputation for taking perfectly good, otherwise healthy and veggie safe foods, and drenching them in lard. Wrapping them in thinly sliced meat. Stuffing them with unnameable mollusks and cephalopods.

    Not the best choice, IMO.

    • Indian food, for example, has a truly huge variation of veggie-only dishes...

      That may be true, but perhaps curry isn't the best choice of food for groups of people in a sealed environment...


    • I don't know too much about Spanish food, but I'd point out that Indian food achieves most of its flavor buy using a wide variety of spices and ingredients. That presents quite a logistical issue when your're growing your own food on Mars...
      • That presents quite a logistical issue when your're growing your own food on Mars...

        They can grow potatoes but not fennel?

        Okay, some spices (saffron, for example) they would most likely need to import. But even then, a single kilogram of most spices would last a few dozen people for years. And for most commonly used spices, they literally grow as weeds in the wild. Deliberately growing them requires no more effort than stuffing the right seeds in some healthy dirt.
        • by mrtrumbe ( 412155 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @04:03PM (#12826484) Homepage
          Spice refresher...

          First, most spices are not nearly as easy to cultivate as you describe. Take black pepper, for instance. There is a reason that it was once one of the more valuable spices in the world. Read up on wikipedia for the details of its cultivation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_pepper [wikipedia.org]). A key point in the article is that getting an initial harvest of a consumable size would likely take a few years. Cumin and corriander (which would also produce cilantro) are far more viable options. But I'd just like to point out that if a spice so integral to most cuisines as pepper is difficult to grow, these astronauts better prepare to make some sacrifices. Many spices require so much cultivation time and/or post-harvest treatment as to make them impractical, especially on another planet. I would think vanilla, saffron and cardamom would fall into these categories. And then there are the spices which would be nearly impossible to cultivate without an extended stay and a large amount of land. Cinnamin comes to mind...

          As for shelf life, spices generally don't fare very well. In ground form, spices generally lose their pungency well within a year. In whole form, you can eek another year or two out of them. But that isn't a long time in planet-hopping years. Storage mechanisms might be created to extend their potency, but I use air-tight containers at home for whole spices and I never keep them for over a year. You can taste the difference, trust me.

          In terms of herbs, they would fare much better. A little herb plant can go a long way. And so long as there is enough light and water, cultivation is a snap.


        • - where they sell 2 KG bags of yellow curry powder mix. Either very large families, or very large spice loadings. Even I, white-bread all-American dude that I am, use a quarter-kilo of the stuff a year.
    • You may be forgetting that this is coming from the ESA. Secondly, this isn't traditional French food, but is instead haute cuisine -- they are very different.
    • Stuffing them with unnameable mollusks and cephalopods.

      So would that be the Gaul of Cthulhu?
    • by mrtrumbe ( 412155 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:42PM (#12826216) Homepage
      You are modded "Funny" right now, but maybe I just don't get it...

      As a chef, I think you are uninformed as to exactly what French cuisine is and how much the French have contributed to modern techniques used in all types of cuisine around the world.

      For some background, I suggest these two wikipedia.org articles:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_cuisine [wikipedia.org]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provence [wikipedia.org] (note the culture section)

      I prefer the flavors of the Southwest, Latin america and India in my own cuisine, but there are very good reasons that most modern chef schools teach primarily French techniques in their curriculums. In the majority of dishes I prepare, there is some piece of the dish whose core is a French invention, or at least has a parallel in French cuisine. For instance, read wikipedia's article on sauces (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sauce [wikipedia.org]), where you will learn about the huge effort French chefs put into creating and codifying the various root types of sauces. These sauces are heavily used in nearly all types of cooking.

      In regards to use of vegetables, I'd think a classically trained (read: French) chef could come up with many tasty dishes with just a few vegetables.

      I think you have some misconceptions about French cuisine.


    • by Elwood P Dowd ( 16933 ) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:49PM (#12826282) Journal
      my experience with it involves mostly South-American-Spanish, not Southern-Europe-Spanish food
      In my experience, people never refer to food from South America as "Spanish" cuisine. It's usually either Mexican or Salvadoran or some Americanized (in a good way! Tex-Mex or California) equivalent. If you say "Spanish food" you mean paella and tapas. Not burritos or tacos or enchiladas or chimichangas. Not guacamole.
    • The problem with Indian and Spanish dishes is that they require spices that are difficult to grow, especially in the kind of temperate climate people like, and take up a significant amount of room that could otherwise be used for crops.

      While I'm sure you could import curry powder or saffron strands (dried, so they're low weight), you have the problem of the spices losing their efficacy over long storage times.

      French food uses herbs that are generally found in the temperate climate of France, so they can

  • Nice idea, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nystagman ( 603173 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:11PM (#12825930)
    ....it's the variety of the diet, at least as much as the quality that keeps you (well, me at least) from going nuts, or potentially worse, losing interest in eating.

    I hope that these fancy new meals do not end up displacing "comfort foods" such as may have previously been on the menu.

    As Martha would say, "It's a good thing."

    • Since they are targeted at 40%, I would have to say that this adds to variety, not displaces it. Particularly considering the quality of most freeze dried foods.

  • Oh nos!!!1! (Score:4, Funny)

    by aftk2 ( 556992 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:12PM (#12825934) Homepage Journal
    'martian bread and green tomato jam'

    But the book isn't named How to Cook For Humans on Mars, it's named How to Cook Humans on Mars!!
  • Does this mean... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by suman28 ( 558822 ) <suman28@NOSpam.hotmail.com> on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:15PM (#12825952)
    What about plumbing and the rest of the infrastructure needed for maintaining this 'farm'?
  • "The Helium Special". Four-armed green martian basted in its own ichor. Favorite of John Carter.

    "The War of the Worlds". This blobby Martian is served to you live, at which point you sneeze on it, and your Earth germs instantly render it dead...and tasty.

  • I'm interested in seeing how veggies grow in lower gravity.
  • We will soon have the Crushinator 3000 and Lulabell working the martian farm or is it the moon :)
  • May I have some of them Illudium PU-36 Explosive Space Beans?
  • Fermented Tang?
  • by Thanatopsis ( 29786 ) <despain.brianNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:30PM (#12826111) Homepage
    I was in fifth grade. I then used the "Tang" as wine in a school play, getting the kids pretty well buzzed. It was incredibly funny at the time. The nuns did appreciate that I was able to change "Tang" to Wine.
  • Other planets (Score:2, Interesting)

    by a1cypher ( 619776 )
    ESA says that these recipes will use fresh ingredients grown in greenhouses built on Mars colonies or other planets.

    On other planets... like Earth?
  • No farmonauts would be a voyager into a farm.

    I think you mean astrofarmers or cosmofarmers.

    Still, I just ate a pizza hut pizza, so stick that in your shuttle and eat it! :-)

    I wish dominos/hut would do mars delivery one day, but I think subaqueous hotels will exists first, and the first subaqua society. That'd be cool.
  • IANAFarmer, but food grows from nutrients and water. Assuming we can find or make water ther, we have to do one of two things to farm Mars

    1)Take a lot of soil/hydroponic nutrients with us, or
    2)Use martian "ingredients" to grow food in.

    #1 would seem counterproductive as the mass of soil would be greater than the amount of food you could grow on it. That said, how do you grow anything in soil with no organic material as viking and spirit/opportunity have shown us?

    • So close.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bluGill ( 862 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @04:06PM (#12826530)

      You were so close to the answer. Even used the correct word: hydroponic. Yet you still missed it.

      Plants just need water and nutrients to grow. They do not care much about the soil, so long as the roots get enough (but not too much) water and nutrients. Tomatoes have been grown in just water and fertilizer for years! No soil needed at all. Most plants are more picky than tomatoes, but many grow in gravel sprayed with water and fertilizer.

      This is old by now. Tomatoes were first grown in the lab this way in the 1930s. (There are claims to have done it before then, but they are hard to pin down) Though tomatoes are particularly easy to grow with hydrophonics.

      I'm not sure what nutrients potatoes need, but they prefer sandy soils, which generally doesn't have much in the way of nutrients. Most of the other plants in the article seem to have been selected in part because they don't need much in the way of nutrients.

      In short, we know we can find CO2. We can crack that to get a little O2 to start things out. We are pretty sure we can find water. The amount of fertilizer needed is small for many plants, and thus trivial to bring. (Not to mention it is a by-product of digestion once humans are nearby) The only worry is nitrogen doesn't seem to be plentiful. It could easily end up that getting the nitrogen is the hardest part. Depending on how the greenhouse needs to be designed of course.

  • While it sounds cool, and I'm sure they are good, any group of 11 meals that you eat day after day, is going to become tiresome after an extended period. One would hope they will be able to have variations and other new meals beyond those.

    RTFA? I barely RTFS.
  • by taxman_10m ( 41083 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @03:43PM (#12826235)
    I know they take up space, oxygen, food... but can't those be overcome by just building a place with more space, oxygen, and whatever the animal eats?

    Would it hurt that much to bring a few frozen chicken eggs on the voyage and then raise some chickens on Mars?
    • "Would it hurt that much to bring a few frozen chicken eggs on the voyage and then raise some chickens on Mars?"

      You know, that was a great idea. But no one would have thought that Dr. Smith would decide that a "nice omelette would hit the spot!" halfway through the voyage.

  • The future astronauts -- should I write 'farmonauts'?
    Ah, I see you've opted for our "Please shove a fork in my eye" menu option. Excellent choice, sir.

    Hell, send them with some women and children and they would have a completely replenishable food supply... mmmm Veal...
  • FAMINE STRIKES ON MARS "It's like a fuc*ing desert!" says one astronaut.
  • Jet: The house specialty is sea rat. Used to be a staple food harvested in the Ganymede sea. After the gates stabilized food wasn't scarce anymore and people stopped eating it. So they ran some fancy ad campaigns and claimed it was a delicacy.

    Spike: And...? Is it tasty?

    Jet: It's totally discusting. But people eat it anyway for status - it's in.

    Spike: Well in that case I'm out. Lobster Miso Stew please.


    Good old Cowboy Bebop. Probably off-topic, but it was the first thing I thought of af
  • Why not grow mushrooms on Mars? They're a great meat substitute. And they'd make great stools for the giant hookah-smoking caterpillars that live there!
  • Biosphere 2 [wikipedia.org] demonstrated convincingly that even with a massive infrastructure, hundreds of millions of dollars, and access to convenient and widespread inputs and manicured, primed soil, that creating and maintaining an artificial, productive, self-sustaining biosphere is a herculean task with no easy solution. And they propose to erect something similar on Mars, a terrifically hostile environment with no escape route? Good luck! NASA's Biomass Production Chamber [nasa.gov] has not fared especially well, and the USSR' [wikipedia.org]
  • In a recent episode of Barsoom Barbecue on the Mars Food Channel John Carter of Mars made an excellent rub for Thoat. Tars Tarkas said when John barbecues Thoat ribs the meat just falls right off the bone. And that his Thoat brisket was to die for. You can really sink your teeth into it. Later Dejah Thoris made some tasty Calot dumplings. John said they tasted a bit like dog. And at the end Tars Tarkas showed how he could make a mean White Ape Stew.

    John wrapped up the show my mentioning that Zitidars make
  • The ESA has never actually completed a human-rated space craft, let alone sent someone into space...but when they do, they'll eat like kings!

    (ok, ok, just kidding, don't mean to belittle the ESA astronauts who routinely contribute to Russian and American space missions, in addition to the ISS)
  • by smartfart ( 215944 ) * <joey@joeykell y . n et> on Wednesday June 15, 2005 @04:08PM (#12826544) Homepage Journal
    Will they also grow cows up there? I mean, seriously, what fool would submit to years-on-end leaf-eating? If I have to live on another planet, I'm going to be compensated with prime rib every now and then.
  • If you're lucky enough to be a crew member of one of the next European Space Agency (ESA) long-term missions

    When is the next log-term European space mission, or rather, when is the next European space mission of any kind? Hitchhiking to ISS on Soyuz or Space Shuttle does not count. I would be very interested to see Europe use the Ariane V for manned missions.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva