Mars Food Researchers Emerge From HI-SEAS Dome After 4-Month Space Cooking Experiment [VIDEO]

By Josh Lieberman on August 14, 2013 12:51 PM EDT

hi-seas
Six researchers spent four months cooking food in a dome in Hawaii as part of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation program, or HI-SEAS. (Photo: HI-SEAS)

Six researchers who spent four months in a dome in Hawaii trying to see what foods might be suitable to eat on the long voyage to Mars emerged yesterday, recipe book in hand.

The research space scientists were stationed on Mauna Loa, a Hawaiian lava field with an elevation of 8,000 feet, as part of Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), a project led by Cornell University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, with $947,000 of NASA funding.

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The scientists spent the four months cooking and eating various foods and recording their impressions. They sampled Mars-appropriate foods like dehydrated vegetables, pre-made meat dishes and other foodstuffs--and yes, Tang was on the menu.

"My gosh, they went through 25 pounds of couscous in a flash," said Jean Hunter, Cornell University space food researcher who worked on the HI-SEAS project.

The Hi-SEAS team solicited recipes from the public to test out in their space dome. Among the favorites were No-Crust Quiche Muffins, Spam Fried Rice and a chocolate concoction called Dark Matter Cake.

"Ingredients that will be essential for future space missions on Mars or the moon will include spices, herbs and hot sauce," said HI-SEAS Team Commander Angelo Vermeulen. "But also comfort food such as Nutella, peanut butter and margarine."

In addition to testing foods for a Mars trip, the crew evaluated a variety of space technologies for possible inclusion on manned trips to Mars. They tested out odor-free underwear, dirty laundry being particularly problematic on long journeys without washing machines. They also tried out robotic pets to ease the loneliness of long-distance space travel; for the Hi-SEAS team, this meant "a demanding robot companion will have certain needs that must be provided, otherwise it will make noise and seek out crew members for attention." (There's no word yet on whether that was fun for the crew or annoying.)

With the four-month-long HI-SEAS study concluding yesterday, the crew, which was required to wear space suits anytime they went outside of the space dome, finally left their enclosure in civilian clothes.

"It's a moment I'm going to remember for the rest of my life," said Oleg Abramov, said one of the HI-SEAS members. "Walking out ... experiencing the sunshine and wind on our faces."

They will also presumably always remember the breakfast buffet they immediately attended, in which the Hi-SEAS crew eagerly ate up fresh fruit and vegetables.

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