3D Printed Meals in Space and Right at Your Table

3D printing: Food in the Space

Image source: techcrunch.com

Did you ever wonder what is in a space menu? Yep, space, as in outer space. Do astronauts also store frozen fruits and vegetables aboard the ship? Could they toss a dough to make pizza? Obviously, flipping or tossing items outside the Earth’s atmosphere, even inside a space shuttle will land at nowhere. Zero gravity, remember? You toss something and it will just float and mock at you.

Space dining started from squeezing “baby food” concoctions in a tube-like or toothpaste container. The first man who ate in space was John Glenn in 1962. His meal was an applesauce squeezed from a tube. Their initial assessment was the food was not fun and delicious to eat. NASA made amendments and necessary changes to improve the food system of astronauts. Being sent to space is already a huge fit; it would be a nice consolation if the food tastes better, right?

In the first space expeditions, astronauts lose weight because of unappetizing and bland tasting food. They manifested bone loss or decrease in bone density and blood circulation problems. This is why astronauts must be in their optimum health condition before takeoff and as they perform certain tasks.  They’re lucky enough if they managed to maintain their weight after the mission.

Since the tube meals, food systems had improved in a way it is similar to a normal setting. Food preparations involve rehydration, thermo-stabilized, irradiation, or eaten straight from a flexible pouch or easy-to-open can with the use of spoon or fork. Their meals are freeze-dried, packed in flexible pouches and cut open by a scissor.  Solids are lighter than liquids. Beverages are in powdered-form and diluted in water before drinking. The food is, aside from tasting better, packed with vitamins and nutrients. They could choose from a wide array of meals or requesting their own menu before takeoff.

Because NASA’s main priority is the welfare and health of their astronauts, they ventured into a technology that is now on the rise called 3D Printing or additive manufacturing. The first tries with this type of technology were not edible at all. Pioneers sampled on parts of vehicles, aircraft, robots, and the human body. This gave birth to a branch of 3D printing called 3D bio-printing where million lives could be saved.

Now, another stem is branching out, the 3D food printing. Many attempts were made but NASA is the first one who took a big leap. According to a report, “NASA has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to Systems and Materials Research Consultancy (SMRC) of Austin, Texas to study the feasibility of using additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, for making food in space.” The fund costs US$125,000 and SMRC’s Anjan Contractor heads the six-month grant.

This project will help feed crew members to withstand deep-space missions such as colonizing Mars or exploring distant galaxies that may last for about 15 years or so. Contractor’s team will create powdered-ingredient cartridges with a 30-year shelf life. This is an alternative if ever it is impossible to cultivate plants on the Red Planet.

Earth could benefit, too. Some experts assumed 3D food printing could lessen world hunger. Imagine the ease and convenience of printing burgers in a massive scale enriched with vitamins and minerals – and perhaps cholesterol-free as well. Thru this technology, meals can be customized based on the person’s dietary needs. When that time comes, 3D food printers will soon stand beside our kitchen counters.

Watch out this youtube video of printing a 3D Pizza:

Check out the 5 Kinds of food that fit in 3D printing here!