Space food’s always been pretty crappy, but if NASA gets its way, astronauts will soon be eating their actual waste, the rationale being that this next-level Waterworld-style of self-sufficiency could sustain them on far-flung journeys to colonize Mars (please, just not Uranus … ). To figure out the details, the space agency is giving a team of chemists and bioengineers at Clemson $200,000 a year, one of eight grants addressing the “high-priority needs of America’s space program.”
Traditionally, the classic astronaut diet of glorified MREs and Tang was shipped by shuttles up to the ISS, but lately the signs point to NASA taking a more sustainable approach. Astronauts can now pull shots of lungo espresso while nibbling on freshly picked romaine lettuce. In other words, things are getting extreme up there DIY-food-wise, so a poop program was probably the inevitable progression.
Project head Mark Blenner used this helpful metaphor to explain why we need it: “If you want to send people into space for a long period of time, you can’t go down to the Home Depot to get screws.” Eventually, once all the “screws” you brought run out, you have to get crafty and make your own. Still, sympathies should definitely go out to the initial taste testers.