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Israeli Culinary Staple Couscous Makes the Mars Menu

A group of NASA ‘gastronauts’ have approved couscous, Nutella, and spam as friendly space fare

By: Ashley Peters
Published: August 15th, 2013 in Health » World
Israeli couscous

A team of six researchers have spent the last four months dwelling in a small dome on an arid Hawaii lava field (the northern slope of Mauna Loa) to cook up a probable Mars menu for future astronauts, according to the Daily Mail.

Yesterday, they reappeared to share their knowledge gleaned from the $1 million NASA HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) project.

Commissioned and financed by NASA’s Human Research Program, the University of Hawaii and Cornell University, the team was sent to conduct research about life and cookery for longterm space missions on the red planet.

The results?

Apparently team commander Angelo Vermeulen cited comfort food as a priority.

Lumped into the comfort category was couscous, a popular African, Middle Eastern, and Israeli dish (researchers were nearly running out of the ingredient), Nutella, and the non-perishable canned meat Spam.

Among the most coveted was the chocolate-hazelnut spread Nutella.

"It’s was something we craved," Vermeulen said. "We had a limited supply so we had to ration it."

According to NASA, extensive space missions, like the slated explorations to Mars in the 2030s, present the task of finding years-long food systems. These systems mandate a five-year shelf life and sufficient variety to remain interesting for the crews.

But will interesting comfort foods like couscous and Nutella even matter if astronauts lose their sense of taste in space anyway?

In a joint research project, Advanced Food Technology Project scientist at NASA, Michele Perchonok, and associate professor of biological and environmental engineering, Jean Hunter, will research why astronauts lose their sense of taste in space.

"We’ll get a better understanding of how much of sensory loss of flavour is due to the fluid shift and how much might be due to other pieces," said Perchonok.

Related articles: Couscous, Israel, Mars, Space Travel, NASA, Food
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