For all the work that astronauts do when on a space mission, it's a pity that their food is nutrient-free disgrace. So a new study, that has determined that keeping nutrients in astronauts' food is vital during long space flights, wants to find out how.
Maintaining the health of the crew aboard a spacecraft is a critical issue especially during extended trips.
Because foods may lose their nutrients during extended space missions, food scientists are analyzing ways to increase shelf life of nutrients in the food.
Researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center in Houston evaluated the stability of fatty acids, amino acids and vitamins in supplements and in foods from a long-duration spaceflight on the International Space Station (ISS).
Tested items included tortillas, almonds and dried apricots, commercially-packed salmon, freeze-dried broccoli au gratin, multivitamins, and vitamin D supplements.
"Destruction of even a single vitamin or nutrient in the space food system could be catastrophic to astronauts in a three-year mission to Mars," said Michele Perchonok, manager of the NASA shuttle food system and member of the Institute of Food Technologists.
Scientists speculated that long-term storage and/or radiation from the space environment could degrade nutrients in foods.
Their findings showed that the vitamins in the tortillas decreased significantly, the vitamins in salmon decreased significantly after 353 days, and Broccoli au gratin had 15 to 20 percent decreases in folic acid and in vitamins K and C.They also showed that a multivitamin supplement that was used for the study showed that the vitamin A, riboflavin and vitamin C were all decreased after at least 353 days of storage.
Researchers are now exploring different packaging or other means to increase food shelf life for exploration missions exceeding three years. They are also exploring how the human body's need for nutrients changes during space flight.
Both of these have significant implications for future exploration missions.