China Food

How to make astronauts eat better is actually related to the future of mankind?


“There is no waste in space, only resources”.


Text: Sabrina   

Source: foodaily daily food (ID: foodaily)

Space, the unknown, curiosity. All along, mankind’s interest in space has never diminished. With the successful exploration of the moon and Mars, people expect to achieve more distant, lasting and in-depth space exploration. Astronauts shoulder heavy tasks such as in cabin experiments, out of cabin exploration, daily equipment maintenance and so on. It is very important to maintain full physical strength. And it is important to design nutrition for them Space food, which is balanced, easy to eat and does not produce waste waste, has become one of the key links for the success or failure of deep space exploration.
In January this year, NASA cooperated with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to open the “deep space food challenge” , which aims to create new food production technologies or systems for long-term space missions. These technologies or systems aim to use the least investment to maximize the production of safe, nutritious and delicious food, and may benefit all mankind. NASA announced 18 U.S. and 10 international projects shortlisted in the first phase on October 20, and CSA announced 10 Canadian teams shortlisted on November 10 Wu. These projects are innovative ideas from students, chefs and emerging enterprises, involving artificial food, plant growth, biological culture, etc., representing the overall thinking depth of space food innovation in the United States and Canada.
In addition to supplying astronauts and ensuring the smooth development of deep space exploration projects, what is the significance of studying deep space food? What are the unique concepts of deep space food displayed by these shortlisted projects? How much can they be used for reference for the development and innovation of China’s space food?
Deep space voyage, food based
Last year, foodaily released “what should we eat when we get out of the earth? Looking back on space food for 60 years, it brings us more than imagination” In this paper, we systematically review the process of human development of deep space food and its rich and colorful product forms. Before introducing the shortlisted projects of the challenge, we need to answer a key question: Why are humans so tireless in the development of deep space food? In addition to ensuring the physiological and work needs of astronauts, what are the deep meanings ignored by people?
1. Continuous exploration, deep space food is not simple
Although there are many food systems on earth that can bring benefits to space travelers, prolonging the duration of the lunar mission needs to reduce the supply dependence on the earth. However, the current food system is not capable of meeting the needs of space flight. Therefore, the early lunar mission will use a prepackaged food system similar to that used by the international space station (ISS) today.
However, based on new technological progress and scientific investment, the type and duration of future lunar missions will continue to develop and mature.   Space agencies need to solve long-term lunar missions and how to provide safe and nutritious food for future lunar landers in lunar orbit or on the lunar surface until the food system is ready to support Mars missions. Therefore, testing a sustainable system to meet the needs of lunar landers on the moon is a basic step in lunar sustainable development and Mars exploration.
Image source: JAXA
At the same time, food insecurity is also a serious long-term problem faced by cities, rural areas and harsh environments on earth. In harsh environments or extreme weather areas, the cost of providing fresh agricultural products on shelves may be very high. In addition, many areas can only enter by plane or harvest very little food, which often leads to poor food quality. In addition, disasters It could also disrupt the supply chain on which all people depend and further exacerbate food shortages.
The effective use of volume, water and other inputs for food production can reduce the impact of technology on the resources required for food production on the earth, especially in extreme environments and resource scarce areas. Those food system solutions applied in deep space can support these harsh environments and food production in other mild environments, such as vertical in cities Agriculture, urban agriculture and other new grain production technologies can play a more important role.
2. What is the deep space challenge?
NASA and CSA expect to develop new food production technologies and / or systems, which do not need to meet all the nutritional needs of future crew, but can be used as part of an integrated food system. Its goal is to provide food for four astronauts for a three-year round-trip mission without replenishment. At the same time, this challenge also hopes to use the least investment and the least waves Cost to achieve the maximum food output and improve the limitations of food efficacy on earth, especially it can be produced directly in urban centers and remote harsh environments, or it can be made into all kinds of delicious, nutritious and safe food in a short time.
Source: Facebook
Deep space projects carefully selected by NASA,
What kind of food innovation are you focusing on?
In the eyes of ordinary people, space food is full of mystery and science and technology like the huge cabin carrying it. Although the deep space, science and technology and food system sound quite far away from ordinary consumers, vacuum freeze-drying technology, cooking and packaging technology, which are widely used in the food industry, were first from space food, from toothpaste paste food to cans Head, then to the fast food bag, what will the deep space food look like in the future?
1. Processed food that can go up to heaven and into the earth
(1) Crumb free space bread
Space bread is a doctoral student at the Institute of food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida. Hope Hersh and her team put forward the idea of making fresh bread in space. Before that, bread was forbidden to be taken into space. A large amount of bread crumbs produced by eating or opening bread may enter the instrument, causing a threat to space flight.
Hope and her team proposed an innovative food technology for making bread in space. Using, you can store the ingredients used to make bread dough, and then bake all the ingredients of bread dough in the bag without leaving the bag. The special bag is made of fluorinated ethylene propylene or EFP plastic and can be used at any temperature from – 200 ℃ to + 200 ℃. At the same time, the bag will not decompose in any way, which means that the bag will not pollute the food or bring any chemical particles into the food.
Above: bread made by EFP process     Figure below: EFP process bread raw material package
Source: YouTube
(2) Making protein by “empty”
Solar foods, a Finnish technology company, has developed a technology that can produce single-cell protein by gas fermentation. The resulting protein, called solein, can be mixed with any food. Solein is a bright yellow, tasteless powder. It is a complete protein – containing all nine amino acids that the body can only obtain from the diet. It can produce nutritious substitute food products.
This technology is based on a special type of microorganism from the field of Finland, which lives on hydrogen, carbon dioxide, oxygen and some other minerals (such as nitrogen) (which can be similar to the survival mode of plants – except that plants use carbon dioxide and sunlight). By decomposing the water in the air into hydrogen and oxygen required by microorganisms through electric current, and then adding carbon and a small amount of minerals such as iron, potassium and calcium, microorganisms can grow in a fermentation tank in a way similar to beer fermentation. After the microorganism grows, the water is taken out from the fermentation tank and dried to obtain powdered edible solein protein.
Fermentation tank used by solar foods laboratory to produce solein
Photo source: solar foods
Solar foods pointed out that this technology takes up very little space, does not use cultivated land, and directly uses water in the air. It is the most sustainable food created so far, more than any traditional form of agriculture.   Compared with plant-based proteins, solein’s impact on the environment is about 1 / 10 of plant proteins and only 1 / 100 of animal production (especially meat).  
(3) Plastic food
This is called μ Bites’ next-generation microbial based food production system will use plastic and biomass wastes as carbon sources for food production to produce food. For example, use disposable plastic containers for making food. These components are ground into a uniform slurry and then sent to a reactor using oxidative hydrothermal dissolution (OHD) technology, which uses water, heat, pressure and oxygen to decompose biomass and convert it into different types of precursors, such as liquid carbon in space. Then the liquid carbon is pumped into the bioreactor bag and contacted with engineering microorganisms (such as yeast) to further process the slurry and produce food components. Recover as much water as possible for future processing, and the slurry enters the next step: preparation to the required consistency, from semi-solid to liquid. It is further mixed with dry spices or supplements to achieve a final, highly customizable food.
μ Bites research team
Image source:
2. Cell culture
(1) Activation of insect cells and meat imitation
Deep space entomoculture is a deep space insect breeding technology. The production method involves an independent equipment to produce food from insect cells. Insect cells are easier to adapt to space growth than ordinary meat. The dried insect cells are transported to space and reactivated with simple components in a suspension bioreactor to produce muscle and fat biomass that mimic traditional meat products, and create familiar meat analogues (hamburgers and broken meat) containing protein and fat from insect cells.
(2) Cell meat grown in space
Mission space food’s project builds on a proven and reliable prepackaged food system and takes advantage of exciting new prospects for space food production. The project will use cell cryopreservation and bioreactor to culture meat in pluripotent stem cells in space. Compared with pasture based cattle raising, this method will reduce the investment of astronauts in meat production by nearly 1000 times. The system can be applied to grow other meat, such as pork or mutton, further expanding the range of food choices.
Source: Mission Space Food
Space food is a coalition of space, food and technology experts aimed at creating an integrated approach to human nutrition in space. With the support of Aleph farm technology platform and Astrea’s cooking and engineering expertise, space food designed new space food, redefined the multi sensory fun of space food, and created infrastructure for deep space exploration.
3. Plant growth
(1) Symbiotic food system
A team of Cornell University students named big red bits designed a compact symbiotic food system concept consisting of cyanobacteria, yeast, mushrooms and plants. According to the design, the system can produce mushrooms, fresh vegetables and plant meat substitutes of various sizes and textures, such as meat cakes, meatballs and French fries, and provide about 15% of the daily calories required by astronauts.
By creating interrelated subsystems, the system can minimize the required soil, water and nutrients and maximize diversified food production. Each subsystem produces cyanobacteria and yeast, plants and mushrooms respectively. The waste generated by each system, such as carbon dioxide, oxygen and water, can then be recycled to other subsystems and used to grow more food. At the same time, innovations such as 3D printing, artificial soil and symbiosis can maximize the waste of each subsystem and minimize external input.
Bigredbits team
Source: bigredbits
(2) Environmental control greenhouse
Interstellar lab, a space start-up, has created an advanced environmental control greenhouse called biopods, which aims to grow fruits, vegetables, flowers and plants anywhere. The space technology called nucleus is a modular biological regeneration system, which can produce fresh micro vegetables, vegetables, mushrooms and insects, and can provide micronutrients for long-term space missions. It combines several autonomous plant accelerators to create a self-sustaining food production system that minimizes the input of water, air and nutrients.
The environmental control module of interstellar lab is used for sustainable agriculture on earth and life support in space.
Source: interstellar Lab
Interstellar lab uses 3D printing technology to manufacture biopods film and material systems. The company also plans to use 3D printing of its Mars simulator called the experimental biological regeneration station (ebios), the first closed-loop, environmentally controlled village on earth. Interstellar lab has a dream team composed of 15 former SpaceX, Disney, Airbus and Thales employees. The goal of the team is to expand the production scale of biopods through am to meet the increasing demand for food on earth and orbit.
(3) Multifunctional vertical farm
Space lab caf é is a new crop production system of Space Lab technologies. It is a compact vertical farm that can continuously produce various nutritional products with minimal water, electricity, waste or processing time. This system can grow a variety of crops, such as leafy vegetables, fruit crops, root vegetables, micro vegetables, mushrooms and even beans. Most importantly, it can operate on the moon, Mars or spacecraft habitat with or without gravity. At the same time, it can also provide farm to table solutions for the earth’s urban center or remote and harsh environment.
Space lab caf é has many functions. The system can generate a personalized menu, the user can select the required ingredients, and the system also suggests other crops to fill the lack of nutrition. Mobile root containers support continuous planting, so ready to eat crops can be harvested continuously without refrigeration. The microgravity compatible watering system can feed and ventilate all types of vegetables in any space environment, while preventing microbial growth and self-cleaning.
Space lab caf é simulation diagram
Source: space lab caf é
In addition, space lab has advanced 3D printing capability, which can be used for rapid prototyping, supporting many low-temperature and high-temperature filaments, silicon oxide (SiO2) ceramic resin, aviation grade materials and FDA approved biocompatible materials to support the project materials.
4. 3D printing technology
(1) 3D printing of dehydrated powder
A universal food manufacturing machine (UFF) proposed by beehex company. The multifunctional system can dehydrate plants and cultured meat into powdered food, store them in sealed boxes to extend the shelf life (more than 5 years), and use the food stored in the boxes to manufacture food through 3D printing when necessary. This unique project emphasizes the maximization of safe and nutritious food with minimum investment, and provides astronauts with adaptive tools to meet their basic needs.
Since its launch in 2017, beehex has been using 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to automate personalized nutrition. The startup has even developed a system to produce customized nutrition bars funded by the U.S. Army, and is changing the way food is made by rethinking food preparation and abandoning its patent pending 3D food printing and robot system. Meanwhile, in 2017, beehex signed a contract with NASA to develop a 3D printer for space pizza.
Beehex 3D food printing technology is running
Source: beehex
(2) 3D printing food system
Keeta, a team of Thai aerospace engineers, is one of the ten winners in the international category, proposed a 3D printed food system, which uses the output of interdependent micro ecosystems to create a variety of nutritious food. The ecosystem is composed of producers (algae), insects and decomposers (red ants). Insects will be rich in protein, vitamins and minerals and provide a variety of flavors at the same time.
According to the social media post of the Ministry of foreign affairs of Thailand, keeta team “took advantage of Thailand’s food culture, such as the benefits of insects combined with 3D printing technology, to create a food production system with good appearance and taste.”
(3) Integration of 3D printing and other technologies
Alsec alimentos secos is also one of the ten winners in the international category. The team proposed a food production system that integrates four index technologies: microencapsulation, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and 3D printing to prepare and develop natural, organic and highly nutritious powdered foods.
ALSEC is one of the most innovative food companies in Columbia. By combining micro nano encapsulation and spray drying technology, it is the first to produce and develop powdered ingredients and finished products with high nutritional value locally.
China is at the forefront of the world
On the afternoon of September 17, 2021, the Shenzhou 12 manned mission was a complete success, and the three astronauts who had lived and worked in space for three months successfully went home on business. At the same time, the space heroes’ meals in space are also frequently searched. There are more than 120 dishes specially equipped for astronauts, such as fish flavored shredded meat, kung pao chicken, beef fillet with black pepper, spicy mutton, spicy dried beans… With rich and balanced nutrition and low repetition rate.
On the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft launched not long ago, in addition to carrying more than 100 kinds of food, researchers also prepared personalized recipes for astronauts. For example, Wang Yaping, a native of Shandong, specially prepared seafood for her; Ye Guangfu comes from Chengdu and the menu is relatively spicy; Zhai Zhigang is from Northeast China and has a wide range of tastes.
Source: cgtn
China is the first country in the world to realize space breeding. After more than 30 years of space breeding experience, China is currently the only country in the world that has provided space breeding programs for Chinese residents. Along with the Shenzhou 12 astronauts, there were 22 strains of dairy fresh bacteria from Yunnan. This is also the first time that probiotics have lived in space for three months.
The domestic lactic acid bacteria industry started relatively late, and the strain collection, cultivation and separation technologies are monopolized by foreign enterprises. The purpose of carrying out the space breeding scientific research project of dairy fresh bacteria is to make use of the special mutagenic effect of space environment to make the strains mutate, and then return to the ground to cultivate new microbial strains, so as to make a breakthrough in the breeding of probiotic strains in China, so as to develop more characteristic products suitable for the physique of Chinese people.
China’s research on space agriculture is in the forefront of the world. The first “lunar micro farm” has been sent to the moon by Chang’e 4, which has successfully realized the experiment of cultivating plant seedlings on the moon for the first time. In October this year, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences published a prospect article, deeply analyzed the unique requirements of space agriculture system for crops, and innovatively put forward the whole plant edible elite plant strategy for crop improvement in space farm. Taking potato as the model crop, researchers explore elite crops with more edible parts, richer nutrients, higher yield and more effective nutrient utilization. The comprehensive application of this strategy will effectively promote the development of space agriculture, urban agriculture and traditional agriculture.
Picture source: CCTV
What is worth mentioning is that household appliances and kitchenware have also successfully settle down in space. 10 space microwave ovens with patent technology and a nano aerogel refrigerator with light weight and good heat insulation also make astronauts eat more nutritious and delicious.
Focus on space and the future
Food is an important part of all manned space exploration missions. How to develop an innovative food system with minimum investment and maximum production of safe and nutritious food will be the key to human sustainable residence on the lunar surface and future Mars exploration missions.
From the finalists of NASA’s “deep space food challenge”, it is not difficult to see that these technologies are not so much providing more efficient and safe food security for deep space exploration as exploring a low-carbon and efficient production mode of human food in the future. Whether it is raising insects in deep space, extracting high-quality insect protein, or using plastic and biomass waste as base materials to produce food through engineering yeast, it is a bold experiment of future food on the big stage of space. It can be expected that in the near future, we will be able to eat the fruits produced by space seeds and drink yogurt made of probiotic strains that become stronger and more “high-yield” after traveling in space. On that day, these deep space food projects will really shine!
With the concept of sustainability gradually rooted in the hearts of the people and carbon neutralization as the curtain of national policy, people began to think about where the future food production system will go. The research on deep space food will certainly open a broader perspective for the innovation of public civil food. Foodaily looks forward to the footsteps of Chinese astronauts stepping into more far-reaching space, and firmly believes that Chinese deep space food will impress the world like Shenzhou spacecraft!
There is no waste in space, only endless exploration.
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