To unravel the issue of feeding astronauts on long-duration missions, NASA began the Deep House Meals Problem in January 2021, asking firms to suggest novel methods to develop sustainable meals for future missions. About 200 firms entered—a subject that was whittled all the way down to 11 groups in January 2023 as a part of section 2, with eight US groups every given $20,000 in funding and three extra worldwide groups additionally acknowledged. On Might 19, NASA is ready to announce the groups that can progress into the ultimate section of the competition, with a handful of winners to be introduced in April 2024 following extra detailed checks of their proposals.
“Section 2 was form of a kitchen-level demonstration,” says Angela Herblet at NASA’s Marshall House Flight Middle in Alabama, the mission supervisor for the problem. “Section 3 goes to problem the groups to scale their applied sciences.”
Entrants needed to present programs that might function for 3 years and feed a crew of 4 on a potential area mission. The proposals didn’t want to provide a crew’s complete food regimen, however they did have to create a wide range of nutritious meals for the astronauts. Earlier this yr, judges then visited every firm to “see the meals and actually analyze it,” says Herblet.
One firm took a very uncommon method to the duty. Air Firm, primarily based in New York and one of many eight US-based finalists, designed a system that might use the carbon dioxide expelled by astronauts in area to provide alcohol, which might then be used to develop edible meals. The corporate already develops alcohols from CO2 for aircraft gasoline and fragrance.
“It’s making meals out of air,” says Stafford Sheehan, cofounder and chief expertise officer of Air Firm. “It feels like magic, however while you see it really working, it’s way more easy. We’re taking CO2, combining it with water and electrical energy, and making proteins.”
The method produces alcohol that may then be fed to yeast, producing “one thing that’s edible,” says Sheehan. For the competitors they created basically a protein shake, described as being just like one constituted of seitan, a vegan meat substitute. “It really tastes fairly good,” says Sheehan. For astronauts in area, the system would ferment constantly to provide meals. “Everytime you really feel such as you desire a area protein shake, you make one from this yeast that’s rising,” says Sheehan.