Have you ever been to a space museum as a kid? If you have, then you've surely tried the astronaut ice cream: the strange but delightful delectable specially made for astronauts. If you've ever wondered where it came from, then wonder no further.
Popular Science magazine had the sweet opportunity to interview the Space Food Systems Laboratory Manager, Vicki Kloeris. Kloeris has an extensive background in food science, dating back to her days at Texas A&M University where she received a bachelor's in microbiology and a master's in food science and technology. So yeah, my girl Kloeris knows her shit.
According to Kloeris, the biggest challenge for her in preparing meals for the astronauts is variety. Creating about 200 meals for a mission is no easy task. When taking into consideration how boring space can be, it's no surprise that some of the most exciting moments for the astronauts is meal time. Without variety, her astronauts end up eating to survive, rather than thrive. That kind of lifestyle isn't exactly conducive to good mental standing.
Kloeris is currently creating a menu for a trip to Mars that she hopes will be enough to keep the astronauts interested. The difficulty in preparing something like this doesn't necessarily lie in nutrition, but more in perishability. Mars isn't exactly a short drive away. Finding the perfect meal items requires a balanced combination of longevity, variety and taste.
While not a practical idea at the moment, Kloeris believes that perhaps one day we will have a 3D food printer on Mars. Right now astronauts have a 3D printer for tools, but using one that could create a steady stream of food is not yet within our grasp.
Only time will tell how far we can go. And who knows? Maybe we'll colonize Mars one day. If we do, I'll bring the ice cream.