NASA's new plan for feeding astronauts has a surprising twist
Goodbye, astronaut ice cream!
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NASA is funding research at Penn State, where very clever people are working to make food for astronauts on deep space missions. The food will be "a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite where you're eating a smear of 'microbial goo,'" according to Geosciences professor Christopher House.
It will also be made of recycled… poo.
Welp, it’s the end of an era. Kids will no longer dream of being astronauts one day, not when it means eating fecal matter. Thanks, science!
Recycling human waste is not a new concept in space flight.The International Space Station already recycles urine into drinkable water. And okay, it kind of makes sense. Food takes up valuable real estate on a spacecraft, increasing the mass and fuel costs. Other methods for feeding astronauts on long-haul flights (flights to Mars, for example) include growing food, but that’s a process that uses a lot of energy and water, and it also takes up a lot of room on the ship.
So how exactly will the, er, waste turn into food? Researchers basically broke down the waste using anaerobic digestion, which produced methane that could then be used to grow a microbe. This, in turn, could be utilized to make nutritious food.
"Each component is quite robust and fast and breaks down waste quickly," House told Penn State News. "That's why this might have potential for future space flight. It's faster than growing tomatoes or potatoes."
The system isn’t ready for implementation just yet, but House is optimistic about its possibilities. "Imagine if someone were to fine-tune our system so that you could get 85 percent of the carbon and nitrogen back from waste into protein without having to use hydroponics or artificial light," he said. "That would be a fantastic development for deep-space travel."
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