There’s $500,000 Available for You if You Can Figure Out How to Feed Astronauts
Fresh fruit and vegetables would be a huge boost to the astronaut’s mental health, too, as they “provide profound psychological benefits” and have, until now, been virtually impossible to supply on longer missions.
NASA also hopes that if someone comes up with an idea that could allow them to grow and harvest healthy food on a spaceship, there’s a chance it could be applied to help mitigate food deserts back on Earth, as well.
The September 2020 research paper should provide you with a jumping-off point, since it outlines a few different techniques that NASA has used to grow and harvest food in space in the past; NASA is especially interested in making it possible for astronauts to grow “actively producing yeast” in space, which would provide nutrients like beta carotene and zeaxanthin – typically found in vegetables.
Researchers have also managed to grow red romaine lettuce on a spacecraft in the past, and they’re looking forward to small fruits like tomatoes and peppers, says Christina Khodadad, who worked on the project.
“As we go farther and stay in space longer, additional types of crops might be added, and if we bring cooking capabilities, crops like sweet potato and potato are excellent candidates to supplement the diet.”
You’re welcome to come up with your own ideas, as well, if inspiration strikes. You have to register by May 28th of this year and submit your Phase 1 ideas by July 30th. 20 of NASA’s favorites will win $25,000 each, and then proceed into Phase 2.