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Space Diet: First Look at NASA’s Food Bars for Orion Astronauts

Nov 24, 2016 04:01 AM EST

Scientists at NASA are developing special food bars astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft could eat for breakfast.

While crew members aboard the International Space Station (ISS) could choose from about 200 items for their meals and have enough space to keep other options, the Orion spacecraft has limited room for food and supplies. And as deep space missions could not rely on resupply spacecraft, astronauts will need to take everything they need and bring them back to Earth.

The crew should also limit Orion's mass since a heavier spacecraft would require more fuel and energy.

With these conditions in mind, NASA scientists are creating a variety of food bars that would help the crew keep a healthy weight without adding up to the spacecraft's mass. The food bars are packed with calories that could easily substitute for a full breakfast meal.

"When you have 700 to 900 calories of something, it's going to have some mass regardless of what shape it's in, so we've taken a look at how to get some mass savings by reducing how we're packaging and stowing what the crew would eat for breakfast for early Orion flights with crew," Jessica Vos, deputy health and medical technical authority for Orion, said in a statement.

"When you think about multi-week missions in Orion, having just one package for breakfast items for crew will help us limit the space we need to store them."

Space station crew consumes items from multiple thermostabilized packages, which are foods that are heat processed to destroy harmful microorganisms and enzymes. Another option includes rehydratable packages, where foods have their water content removed before flight to save weight and then added back in before they are consumed.

For breakfast, Orion crew could choose from a variety of flavors, such as orange cranberry and barbecue nut, and for lunch and dinner, they could select from similar items ISS crewmembers eat, along with a food warmer to prepare meals.

But aside from the caloric density of the food bars, scientists are also working to understand how these could affect crew morale.

"There's no commercially-available bar right now that meets our needs," Takiyah Sirmons, a food scientist with the Advanced Food Technology Team at NASA's Johnson Space Center, said in the same statement. "So we've had to go design something that will work for the crew, while trying to achieve a multi-year shelf-life."

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