If you thought planning a menu for a cookout this summer was a pain, just be thankful you’re not tasked with getting meal plans together for a mission to Mars. While a permanent moon colony is about as laughable plausible at this point as a Newt Gingrich presidency, NASA’s still reaching for the stars with a proposed visit to the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s. And the success of that mission, the AP reports, is dependent on keeping the astronauts fed. Since the voyage will require six months of space flight, each way, and an additional eighteen months camped out on Martian soil, Tang and ordinary freeze-dried astronaut chow won’t cut it.
While there are plans for astronauts to set up hydroponic gardens to grow their own fresh vegetables and fruit after they’ve landed on Mars, the first casualty of interplanetary travel is meat. Since food for the mission must have a shelf life of at least two years, meat, dairy, and most other animal products are immediately ruled out, because there is no way to preserve them for that long. But it’s not all bad. One of the 100-plus recipes that scientists came up with is a cheeseless Thai pizza that’s topped with carrots, red peppers, mushrooms, scallions, peanuts, and a spicy sauce. We’ve never been to space, but that sounds a lot more appetizing than sucking a freeze-dried cheeseburger out of a plastic tube. Still, it would be cool if they could, like, stuff the crust with something.