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Future Astronauts May Survive On Eating Silkworms 384

sciencehabit writes "Science reports that silkworms may be an ideal food source for future space missions. They breed quickly, require little space and water, and generate smaller amounts of excrement than poultry or fish. They also contain twice as many essential amino acids as pork does and four times as much as eggs and milk. Even the insect's inedible silk, which makes up 50% of the weight of the dry cocoon, could provide nutrients: The material can be rendered edible through chemical processing and can be mixed with fruit juice, sugar, and food coloring to produce jam."
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Future Astronauts May Survive On Eating Silkworms

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  • Wow, great timing! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phillymjs ( 234426 ) <slashdot@st[ ]o.org ['ang' in gap]> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:10PM (#26449745) Homepage Journal

    Now Hershey's can spin this nasty incident [consumerist.com] as test marketing of their new Space Brownies!


  • Re:Food for thought (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jerep ( 794296 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:11PM (#26449769)

    From what I know they're merely aware of the problem and haven't fully solved it, unless I'm really mistaken there's no way for current spacesuits to completely shield astronauts from radiation outside the earth's magnetic field.

  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:19PM (#26449931) Journal

    Benchilada eats silkworm pupae [youtube.com] live on video, So You Don't Have To [youtube.com]. (not mentioned in the video is the fact that his friend, helping him, started throwing up convulsively soon after they finished filming the episode.)

  • Re:gross (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:24PM (#26450053) Homepage Journal

    How are they served in Korea? Sounds like you ate them whole... cooked or raw? Can you get them fried? (yes I'm from the south). If they taste like beans can you grind them up into a hummus or bean dip? Refried worms, mmmm.

  • by troll8901 ( 1397145 ) <troll8901@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:28PM (#26450133) Journal

    Good one.

    Just wanna point out that we had always been eating insect parts [wikipedia.org] in jams, canned fruits, and other products, without being aware.

    That said ... EEEEWWWW!! Over my dead body!

  • Re:gross (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:29PM (#26450151)
    If you have a Korean market near you, you can easily find cans of silkworm pupas in some sort of paste/sauce. My mom used to get them (she's Korean) until she realized what it was she was buying/eating.
  • Re:gross (Score:2, Interesting)

    by amasiancrasian ( 1132031 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:39PM (#26450327)
    It's actually extremely nutritious. Chinese people sell these snacks all over the place.
  • Bah Beardie food! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Coraon ( 1080675 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:40PM (#26450351)
    My bearded dragon eats these things...we even have a small colony of silks that we raise. Mulberry (which is what you feed them) is actually kinda hard to get some seasons though it does come in a green brick mulch form, I personally wouldn't want to eat silks, as I've seen the beardie eat them live and its damn right icky. Personally I'd rather eat tofu...
  • Re:or go vegetarian? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gzipped_tar ( 1151931 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:42PM (#26450419) Journal

    Most of silkworms feed exclusively on white mulberry leaves. They often refuse to eat anything else. And humans cannot digest mulberry leaves...

  • by RobBebop ( 947356 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:45PM (#26450479) Homepage Journal

    So why not just bring human-edible food instead of silk worm food?

    "Human-edible food" is like this simple loop that most people here should understand:

    ---> for (int x=100; x--; x>0)

    After the function ends, the astronaunts die. I think I've read that astronauts "consume" 10kg of materials (air,water,food) per day so that it would cost 300kg to support somebody for a month if nothing ever got recycled. What space colonists need is a simple food-chain like this:

    ----> while (1) { plants(Sun, Fertiziler); silkworm(Plants); humans(Silkworm); }

    In this way, you can recycle the processed waste from the silkworm and the humans (i.e. the "Fertilizer") and combine that with available Sunlight to generate a continuous cycle of food. And when "not dying" is the goal, it really won't matter how it tastes.

  • Re:Food for thought (Score:5, Interesting)

    by A. B3ttik ( 1344591 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @12:50PM (#26450625)
    From what I understand, it's almost impossible for people to have sex in Zero-G. Male Astronauts have apparently tried quite a bit, even with the help of drugs, but they -can't- get an erection.

    This makes sense since most of the blood in your body flows to your head when you're in Zero-G.

    Sorry to burst all of your geeky dreams.
  • Re:Food Coloring? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @01:04PM (#26450931)

    Do we really need to waste precious cargo space and weight to bring up food coloring? I suppose astronauts might want green or purple catchup too.

    All the precious cargo space in the world is pretty pointless if your crew gets pissed off and starts smashing things because they have spent the last 6 months in radioactive isolation while eathing nothing but mushed bugs. Even the most adamant basement dweller of Slashdot would go nuts if subjected to the monotony that would be interplanetary space-travel.

  • by kenp2002 ( 545495 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @01:11PM (#26451087) Homepage Journal

    A Navy friend of mine worked on a Sub for many years. He always thought it was ironic that for a mission that required stealth they always seemed to have some of the loudest food you could find. Even MREs are edible, normal food.

    Nothing in the exploration of space requires such nonsense self-depravation and oddities that keep getting leaked. I swear this is just a poly for more money.

    Flour Torillas and refried beans is a remarkable compact food with spreadable cheese (think like butter) is easy to make. Even in zero G. Microwave it and you are good to go. The ideal of using silk worms is laughable when canned pastes and flat breads store very densely.

    Here is a great "at home" experiment. Make a PBJ upside down. Doable with jelly in a squeeze bottle.

    I mean seriously this is the most idiotic thing I have heard.

    Can of refried beans is a more dense food source.

    Suppliments can handle any short comings in the food supply.

    How about:
    Refried Beans
    beef jerky
    whole grain frozen bagels
    squeezy cheese

    All of those can be packed\frozen\thawed with little trouble in dense formats.

    Hell I know body builders that live on nothing but hard boiled eggs, whole grain bagels with peanut butter, diced chicken, milk, and tuna fish. 7 days a week. Years on end (excluding unusual meals on dates, holidays, etc.)

    Chicken meat can be processed much like Spam and con be stored in a very compact space. Taking a cue from Tuna packaging you can use lightweight, vaccum sealed mylar bags to store the food. I have not tried freezing a hard boiled egg and thawing one to eat but bagels and even peanut butter seem to survive the freezer ok.

    The key is density and as usual all things can be measured against SPAM for food density... :)

  • Re:gross (Score:2, Interesting)

    by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @01:48PM (#26451961)

    Don't take this the wrong way, but isn't that like an Italian not knowing that calamari is squid? Or French:escargot:snails?

  • by Daimanta ( 1140543 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @01:49PM (#26451975) Journal

    "---> for (int x=100; x--; x>0)

    After the function ends, the astronaunts die. "

    That's ok because this loop will never end. You mixed up x-- and x>0. It will either refuse to compile, throw an error at runtime or loop forever. Depends on the language you use ofcourse.

  • by Migraineman ( 632203 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @01:50PM (#26451989)
    Steve over at The Sneeze posted his experience eating silkworms. [thesneeze.com] I can't say they look overly appetizing.
  • Re:Food for thought (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gerzel ( 240421 ) * <brollyferret@gmai3.1415926l.com minus pi> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @01:57PM (#26452119) Journal

    The ocean is connected to the land as far as ecosystems go. A single asteroid can kill off both land and oceanic populations.

    On the other hand if you had viable terrestrial and space populations then a single asteroid would have a much more difficult go at it.

    And it isn't just asteroids that we have to worry about. It isn't a matter of if the surface of this planet will become uninhabitable to humans it is a more a matter of when.

    Space Colonization is a matter of survival of the species and other species as well. Also we may just learn something along the way.

  • Re:gross (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zigziggityzoo ( 915650 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @02:04PM (#26452241)
    http://www.baconsalt.com/ [baconsalt.com] "Bacon Salt is a Zero-calorie, Zero fat, Vegetarian, and Kosher seasoning that makes everything taste like bacon."
  • Re:gross (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grassy_knoll ( 412409 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @02:46PM (#26452959) Homepage

    Sea urchin can be some great movie-watching food.

    Knew a guy who liked to go fishing on the weekends. He'd bring back buckets of urchins, which I'd trade him for scotch. Worked out to about $7 USD (in the late 90's) for a gallon bucket full of the spiney little yum-yums. Did I mention that buying alcohol on an overseas base is cheap, since there's no state taxes?

    Anyway, throw a movie in. Remove urchin from bucket. Cut urchin in half with kitchen shears while enjoying the spines moving about in your hand. Add a dash of soy sauce. Eat with spoon. Repeat.

  • Re:gross (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vidarh ( 309115 ) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @02:56PM (#26453147) Homepage Journal

    Cut urchin in half with kitchen shears while enjoying the spines moving about in your hand. Add a dash of soy sauce. Eat with spoon. Repeat.

    I think you just made PETA's hit list for that comment.

  • Re:gross (Score:2, Interesting)

    by metrometro ( 1092237 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @05:24PM (#26455703)

    Silkworks are a snack in Southeast Asia. I really enjoyed them. They fry them till they're a little crunchy and cover them with a dry chili powder. It's a party food, socially similar to how we'd use nachos.

    The experience is a little like Cheetos with meat in the middle.

  • Re:Food for thought (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cstdenis ( 1118589 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @05:47PM (#26456119)

    Solution to NASA's funding problems.

  • Re:Food for thought (Score:3, Interesting)

    by trawg ( 308495 ) on Wednesday January 14, 2009 @07:40PM (#26458033) Homepage

    I seem to recall some sci-fi book I read where they'd solved the problem by surrounding the astronauts with water (ie, the ship's water supply was basically in the hull). I can't recall any of the details, but that's always stuck in my mind as a vaguely good idea, assuming it works, as you need heaps of water anyway and if you can double it as a radiation shield then so much the better!

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.