Variety, nutrition and taste are some considerations when developing food for astronauts. For NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge, students, chefs, small businesses, and others whipped up novel food technology designs to bring new solutions to the table.
NASA has selected 18 U.S. teams to receive a total of $450,000 for ideas that could feed astronauts on future missions. Each team will receive $25,000. Additionally, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency jointly recognized 10 international submissions.
NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website will air a show on the Deep Space Food Challenge at 10 a.m. CST Nov. 9 with details about the competition, winning solutions, and what could be next for the teams.
Special guests during the show will include celebrity chef Martha Stewart and retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who will announce the winners of two awards honoring international teams that demonstrated exceptional innovation. Other participants will include retired Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield and celebrity chef Lynn Crawford.
“NASA is excited to engage the public in developing technologies that could fuel our deep space explorers,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters. “Our approach to deep space human exploration is strengthened by new technological advances and diverse community input. This challenge helps us push the boundaries of exploration capabilities in ways we may not recognize on our own.”
NASA, in coordination with the Canadian Space Agency, opened the Deep Space Food Challenge in January. The competition asked innovators to design food production technologies or systems that met specific requirements: They would need to use minimal resources and produce minimal waste. The meals they produced would have to be safe, nutritious, and delicious for long-duration human exploration missions.
For the U.S. teams, NASA’s judges grouped submissions based on the food they envisioned producing. Among the designs were systems that used ingredients to create ready-to-eat foods, such as bread, as well as dehydrated powders that could be processed into more complex food products. Others involved cultivated plants and fungi or engineered or cultured food, such as cultured meat cells.
Details about the winning submissions and teams can be found on the challenge website.
“These types of food systems could offer benefits on our home planet,” said Robyn Gatens, director of the International Space Station Program at NASA and challenge judge. “Solutions from this challenge could enable new avenues for worldwide food production in resource-scarce regions and locations where disasters disrupt critical infrastructure.”
The winning U.S. teams, in alphabetical order, are:
Astra Gastronomy of San Francisco
BeeHex of Columbus, Ohio
BigRedBites of Ithaca, New York
Biostromathic of Austin, Texas
Cosmic Eats of Cary, North Carolina
Deep Space Entomoculture of Somerville, Massachusetts
Far Out Foods of St. Paul, Minnesota
Hefvin of Bethesda, Maryland
Interstellar Lab of Los Angeles
Kemel Deltech USA of Cape Canaveral, Florida
Mission: Space Food of Mountain View, California
Nolux of Riverside, California
Project MIDGE of La Crescenta-Montrose, California
RADICLE-X of Brooklyn, New York
SIRONA NOMs of Golden, Colorado
Space Bread of Hawthorne, Florida
Space Lab Café of Boulder, Colorado
µBites of Carbondale, Illinois
The Canadian Space Agency ran a parallel competition with a separate application, judging process, and prize for participating Canadian teams. The agency will announce its winners at a later date.
Teams from outside the U.S. and Canada qualified for recognition but were not eligible for monetary prizes. The 10 international submissions recognized are:
ALSEC Alimentos Secos SAS of Antioquia, Colombia
Ambar of Bucaramanga, Colombia
Electric Cow of Germany
Enigma of the Cosmos of Écully, France and Brunswick, Australia
JPWORKS SRL of Milan, Italy
KEETA of Bangkok, Thailand
LTCOP of Piracicaba, Brazil
Natufia X Edama of Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
Solar Foods of Lappeenranta, Finland
π of Ghaziabad, India
The Deep Space Food Challenge is a NASA Centennial Challenge. Centennial Challenges are part of the Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters and are managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Subject matter experts at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center support the competition. NASA, in partnership with the Methuselah Foundation, manages the U.S. and international Deep Space Food Challenge competition.
Editor’s note: Taylor Goodwin, an LSINC employee, supports Marshall’s Office of Strategic Analysis & Communications.