NASA Developing Menu for Mars Mission

The mission itself is planned for the 2030s

A trip to Mars may seem way into the future, but NASA has already begun planning food systems.

Cornell trainees started testing Mars food back in June, but while they focused on tasty freeze-dried and shelf-stabilized food, NASA aims to make fresh fruits and vegetables available in space.

One option, senior research scientist Maya Cooper told the AP, is having a greenhouse of mineral-laced water, rather than soil.

Combined with nuts and spices from Earth, the fresh produce could liven up the menu (and increase the astornaut's nutritional intake) for the trip. Considering that it will reporteldy take six months to get to Mars, and the astronauts will stay on Mars for some 18 months, this is a big deal.

"That menu is favorable because... it actually allows them to have freedom of choice when they're actually cooking the menus because the food isn't already pre-prepared into a particular recipe," Cooper told AP.

Fresh food and customizable recipes also improves psychological health, Cooper said. Past studies have proven that eating certain foods reminiscent of home (meatloaf, mashed potatoes, comfort food) will improve people's mood, while lacking specific vitamins and minerals may harm the brain.

Unfortunately for meat-loving space explorers, all the recipes developed so far have been vegetarian, since dairy and meat will not be available. Still, Cooper's team has created 100 recipes for the crew, hoping that the answer to sustaining a crew for two and a half years will be answered by the mission's 2030 planned launch.