Whilst Astronauts on the International Space Station get to choose from a menu of around 200 food items, that’s not a luxury that’s going to be afforded to the Orion Mission when it travels beyond the moon to explore deep space.

The crew is going to need a robust diet to keep them healthy and sharp, but with limited room and a distinct lack of 7-11’s on the dark side of the moon, well, feeding the crew is providing a unique challenge that’s making NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) get creative.

Their plan? Develop Twennybar style meal replacement bars. With flavours including barbecue nut, orange cranberry, banana nut and ginger vanilla. Bars will be around 700 to 800 calories per meal and, hopefully, will keep the crews weight up but the Orion’s down.

“When you have 700 to 900 calories of something, it’s going to have some mass regardless of what shape it’s in, so we’ve taken a look at how to get some mass savings by reducing how we’re packaging and stowing what the crew would eat for breakfast for early Orion flights with crew” “When you think about multi-week missions in Orion, having just one package for breakfast items for crew will help us limit the space we need to store them.”Jessica Vos, Deputy Health and Medical Technical Authority for Orion

You have to wonder if they’ve taken at least some inspiration from Soylent, but also why they’re spending so much money developing something that’s already available. Surely they could work with the ‘lent sector and skip a lot of early development time?

“There’s no commercially-available bar right now that meets our needs, so we’ve had to go design something that will work for the crew, while trying to achieve a multi-year shelf-life,”Takiyah Sirmons, NASA Advanced Food Technology team

NASA scientists are also worried about how the bars will affect crew happiness, since food is closely associated with morale. Testing is going well though, with crew members inside their HERA habitat (a ground-based analog for the isolation of space) providing feedback on flavour, texture, the long-term acceptability of the bars and ultimately helping NASA decide on the right meal replacement schedule to implement on the first Orion mission in 2021.

Source: NASA