Browse Publications Technical Papers 2003-01-2682

Regenerative Foods Without Crops: The Case for Chemical and Microbial Synthesis of Food Ingredients for Long-Term Space Missions 2003-01-2682

Food is the most costly expendable resource for long space missions. Prepackaged food is massive and has limited shelf life. Bio-regenerative food production by higher plants entails large investments of energy, equipment and labor per unit of food energy produced, and has a lengthy recovery time in the case of crop failure. Direct chemical and hybrid chemical/microbial synthesis of food ingredients could furnish food ingredients such as glycerol, fats, functional proteins and even sugars from waste materials including CO2. Before such foods can meet NASA's objective of providing a safe, nutritious, balanced and palatable diet for space crews, two levels of development work are required: first, chemical and engineering research to address the issues of byproduct toxicity and purification, and second, food product research to develop a range of acceptable foods from microbial biomass fractions and/or glycerol.
This review explores the prospects for production of several different synthetic and microbial food products for long-duration crewed missions, focusing on the technological aspects of food product synthesis rather than the product development aspects.


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