A glance at the AP's science feed this morning revealed what I thought said this, by Ramit Plushnick-Masti: NASA builds menu for planned Mars missions in 2030s. Ah, thought I, NASA believes the budget straight jacket will eventually unbelt itself and a new round of science missions will continue the tradition of the Viking landers, of the Spirit and Opportunity cuties, and the enroute Curiosity rover. One imagines sample returns, mountain and cliff climbing bots, automated drill rigs pulling deep core samples, and dirigibles able to stay aloft for months and cruising the Valles Marineris or observing close-up the creeping polar frosts. Menu meant to me a wish list.
Nope. More interesting than that, if narrower. The AP writer took herself to a NASA experimental kitchen at Johnson Space Center to sample cuisine for a planned manned Mars mission, singular. If the hed had said Mars expedition I'd not have been momentarily thrown off track. So, the agency thinks that it will have enough money not only for some more automated missions but for so many astronauts they'll take along their own chef?
It's a diverting story, well done and a bit of a nostalgia piece for us old timers. Now, one imagines that the likes of Robert Bigelow and Richard Branson and Elon Musk, circa 2035 versions, may be the ones putting up residential units for restless billionaires on Mars while NASA is still trying to gets its plans past Congress.
One minor point in the story must have been made before but Plushnick-Masti makes it plainly enough that I noticed it this time. It applies to Mars tourists equally. She first notes the pressure-cookers and hydroponic gardens sure to be in use and the fresh fare on the Mars groaning board compared to the bland freeze-dried meals for residents of today's space station. Then, she writes, the NASA experimental nutrition team "has come up with about 100 recipes, all vegetarian because the astronauts will not have dairy or meat products available. It isn't possible to preserve those products long enough to take to Mars and bringing a cow on the mission is not an option.." Emphasis mine. All vegetarian? One guesses that deep freezes are energy hogs, and too heavy. Bio-reactor faux (but live, sort of) meat could remain a pipe dream. Ergo, vegan meals.
The piece has a lot on the psychological importance of a varied diet to people on such long, arduous missions as would be a Mars expedition. Some on this hypothetical expedition will surely still spend long moments of frustrated longing for juicy hamburgers and pizza with sausage and crusty, dripping cheese.
- Charlie Petit