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Is there food on Mars?

A group of six people will take part in a simulated mission to Mars next year – on the Big Island of Hawaii. Their mission? Report back on the food astronauts eat in space.

Image: NASA Hubble Space Telescope/PA Archive/Press Association Images

A GROUP OF intrepid explorers will take part in a tasty 120-day mission to Mars – but one with a difference.

The ‘Mars’ they move to won’t be in space, but in paradise: Hawaii. Their mission, meanwhile, will be rather culinary in nature.

The HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analogue and Simulation) mission will take place in 2013 on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Its aim is to look at ways to feed astronauts on a mission to Mars, where they wouldn’t have access to fresh foods for between 3 – 5 years.

As cooking is nearly impossible in microgravity, astronauts eat pre-made, pre-packaged foods. But the organisers of the mission say that they can get tired of this monotonous diet and suffer from “menu fatigue”, putting them at risk for nutritional deficiency.

The study will compare a crew-cooked food system versus pre-prepared food, during a four-month simulated mission to Mars.

It will help to estimate the time needed to prepare foods, if the crew members’ taste and smell changes the longer they are in space; the role of food in determining the mood of crewmembers; and build a database of recipes that can be used on real space missions.

The closing date for applications has passed, and the six who are selected to be crew members will undergo training in 2012.

Next year, they will then live together for 120 days “in a small isolated Mars analogue habitat in a Mars-like environment, having only delayed electronic communication with the outside world”.

They will wear simulated spacesuits whenever leaving the habitat and fill out forms and surveys on different aspects of the research, as well as consuming only instant foods and tracking their intake of them.

Not just anyone could apply – you had to have a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological or physical sciences, mathematics or computer science, as well as having a normal sense of taste and smell and tobacco-free for at least 24 months, among other requirements.

Read: Scientists find evidence of ancient ocean on Mars>

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