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NASA intends to improve astronaut meals by implementing deep space food production

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In contrast to the potato-based diet shown in the 2015 science fiction movie The Martian, an aviation fuel company in New York is changing the way people eat in space. An innovative company called Air Company has made it to the finals of a NASA-sponsored competition. The goal of the competition is to encourage the development of next-generation technologies that can help astronauts get the food they need.

Air Company, which is based in Brooklyn, has come up with a way to reuse the carbon dioxide that astronauts breathe out during flights. This recycled carbon dioxide is used to grow nutrients based on yeast. These nutrients are then used to make protein shakes for crews on long deep-space missions.

Stafford Sheehan, co-founder and chief technology officer of the company, said that these protein shakes have the same nutritional value as the popular powdered drink Tang, which was famously drunk by astronaut John Glenn during his historic orbit of Earth in 1962. Sheehan first made this carbon-conversion technology to make high-purity alcohols that could be used to make jet fuel, perfume, and vodka, among other things.

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Sheehan was inspired by NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge to change his invention so that it could make proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that could be eaten. Air Company’s entry to the contest, a single-cell protein drink, has a texture like whey protein shakes and a taste like seitan, a tofu-like food that vegetarians often eat as a meat substitute because of its sweet and malty taste.

The same process can also be used to make carb-rich alternatives to bread, pasta, and tortillas, in addition to protein drinks. Sheehan thinks that his smoothie could be paired with other foods made in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment. This would give people on space missions a variety of foods to eat.

The patented AIRMADE technology from Air Company was chosen as one of the eight winners of NASA’s food competition. The company won $750,000 in the second phase of the competition. Still to come is the last round of the competition. The people who win the contest will get a prize of up to $1.5 million.

NewsNASA intends to improve astronaut meals by implementing deep space food production

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