The idea is to create a meal-replacement food that doesn’t take up too much space on a cramped Mars-bound spacecraft.
The bars will be stocked aboard NASA’s Orion capsule and come in a choice of four different flavours: banana nut, orange cranberry, ginger vanilla and barbecue nut.
At the moment, astronauts aboard the ISS have around 200 different options for meals they can prepare and eat. But deep-space travel is another matter entirely.
“When you have 700 to 900 calories of something, it’s going to have some mass regardless of what shape it’s in, so we’ve taken a look at how to get some mass savings by reducing how we’re packaging and stowing what the crew would eat for breakfast for early Orion flights with crew,” said Jessica Vos, deputy health and medical technical authority for Orion.
“When you think about multi-week missions in Orion, having just one package for breakfast items for crew will help us limit the space we need to store them,” she said.
The bars are being developed with crew morale in mind – given that they will likely be eating them for long periods of time.
Orion is the craft specifically designed to take humans to Mars and back – something that could happen within the next two decades.
“There’s no commercially-available bar right now that meets our needs, so we’ve had to go design something that will work for the crew, while trying to achieve a multi-year shelf-life,” said Takiyah Sirmons, a food scientist with the Advanced Food Technology team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA is also looking at ways of actually producing food away from planet Earth.
The space agency is working with the International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru to grow taters in conditions as similar to the surface of Mars as possible.
The idea is that once we get to the red planet, humans can become self-reliant rather than dependent on packages of food sent from Earth.