By
Monsi Roman,
NASA Centennial Challenges
,
Angela Herblet,
NASA Centennial Challenges
,
Amanda Adams,
NASA Centennial Challenges
,
Published

Many of us may not think we have much in common with astronauts about to head to Mars, but we have one need in common – nutritious food that hopefully tastes good!

astronaut examining plant
Artistic interpretation of astronaut tending to a plant. Credits: courtesy of iStock.com/Gorodenkoff

The need for astronauts to maintain a healthy diet in space is driving NASA to search for innovative and sustainable food production systems that can be used for long-duration crewed missions.  Additionally, solutions for sustainable food production systems can be of benefit right here on our home planet, as we look to feed a growing population in the setting of climate change.

Deep Space Food Challenge Logo
NASA and the Canadian Space Agency have coordinated to open the Deep Space Food Challenge, targeted at developing novel food system technologies for long-duration deep space missions. Credits: NASA

To take this challenge head-on, NASA, in coordination with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), has opened the Deep Space Food Challenge. The goal is to generate novel food production technologies or systems that require minimal resources and produce minimal waste, while providing safe, nutritious, and tasty food for long-duration human exploration missions. Solutions from this challenge could also enable new avenues for food production around the world, especially in extreme environments, resource-scarce regions, and in locations where disasters disrupt critical infrastructure.  NASA Centennial Challenges is responsible for the execution of the challenge and has partnered with the Methuselah Foundation, who is managing the United States and international competitor entries.  CSA and their partners manage the Canadian competitor entries.

NASA Harvest Consortium, NASA’s food and agriculture program composed of over 40 partner organizations, is supporting this challenge. Program Deputy Director and Manager, Dr. Alyssa Whitcraft will moderate the upcoming Centennial Challenge webinar, Solving for Earth, taking place on April 21 at 11 a.m. CDT/ 12 p.m. EDT.

The webinar will feature experts from across government and the private sector exploring some of the current food needs we are facing on Earth. The panel will also discuss the unique food security challenges faced in the Canadian North and in rural and urban communities in developed and developing nations around the globe, what’s being done to address the challenges, and what innovations from initiatives like the Deep Space Food Challenge could mean for the future of terrestrial food production. Attendees will be able to submit questions for the panelists to be answered live. 

Interested participants can register to attend the Solving for Earth webinar here.

Additional informational webinars produced by the Centennial Challenges team are also available for interested individuals and teams to learn more about the needs and competition goals as they design their proposed solutions:

  • The Deep Space Food Challenge Information Webinar gave an overview of the challenge, a background of the topic from NASA and CSA Subject Matter Experts, and information for potential teams on how to assemble their team and register.
    • The replay of this webinar can be viewed on-demand here.
  • The Space Food Webinar was a moderated panel discussion that featured a former NASA astronaut and a current Canadian Space Agency astronaut, along with Food Scientists and Nutritionists.  This webinar discussed the history of the food production systems, highlighted the experiences and opinions of the astronauts; and addressed the potential impacts of innovative and novel solutions on future food productions systems for space exploration.  This webinar also featured the first release of a promotional video featuring Alton Brown from Food Network’s “Good Eats”.
    • The replay of this webinar can be viewed on-demand here.

For more information on the Deep Space Food Challenge, and to register for the Solving for Earth webinar, please visit deepspacefoodchallenge.org.

Additional author details: Monsi Roman is the program manager with NASA Centennial Challenges; Angela Herblet is the Deep Space Food Challenge manager with NASA Centennial Challenges; Amanda Adams is the communications integrator with NASA Centennial Challenges.

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