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Space scurvy? NASA strives for nutritious astronaut fare

spacefood.jpgAny kid knows the shining light at the end of a museum field trip is a taste of astronaut ice cream. Delicious, maybe, but apparently not as much so after a year or two, when most space food turns "off-color, mushy or tasteless."

According to an article published on Wired.com, NASA's "food technology" program is having trouble developing meals that stay palatable - and nutritionally valuable - over the 18 months of space travel:

[Notes program head Michele Perchonok,] "Studies have shown that if the acceptability or the sensory properties degrade, so does the [food's] nutrition." Indeed, after one year, space food exhibits notable losses of vitamin A, folic acid (an important B vitamin) and thiamine (another B vitamin that plays a role in the body’s use of carbs and certain building blocks of proteins). And nutrient losses don’t end there, Perchonok says. "Basically, after one year, we are out of vitamin C."

Sure, NASA could supply astronauts with multivitamin pills. But that’s no panacea, Perchonok observes, since preliminary studies by NASA have shown that the potency of vitamins diminishes faster in pills than it does in foods.

To address the problem, NASA is looking for ways to make longer-lasting, flavor-retaining packaging that's lightweight, air-tight and flexible.

Photo by hyku

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