NASA offering $1m if you can come up with innovative solution to space issue

Nasa's 'James Webb Space Telescope' launches into orbit

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Working with the Canadian Space Agency, NASA has announced a massive prize pool for people to help agencies solve the problem of feeding astronauts nutritious meal in space during missions that last for several years. NASA is looking for public participants in the research and development of food production technologies and systems that are innovative, sustainable, require minimum resources and produce as little waste as possible.

According to their website: “Early lunar missions will begin by using prepackaged food systems similar to those in use on the International Space Station (ISS) today, but extending the duration of lunar missions requires reducing resupply dependency on Earth until a food system is ready to support a mission to Mars.

“Thus, testing a sustainable system on the Moon that meets lunar crews’ needs is a fundamental step for both lunar sustainability and Mars exploration.

“As part of this, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are focused on how to furnish crew members with a viable food system for all long duration planetary missions.”

Interstellar ambitions aside, this project will also tackle food insecurity, a chronic problem that affects large swathes of the Earth.

According to the latest figures from the government, around 4.7 million adults and 2.5 million children live in households that have experienced food insecurity in the past year.

Food insecurity has detrimental effects on children’s physical and mental health and negative consequences for their educational attainment.

NASA has long grappled with the issue of food on multi year space expeditions. As food loses its nutritional value over time, typical pre-packaged food wouldn’t be enough.

Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, said: “Feeding astronauts over long periods within the constraints of space travel will require innovative solutions.

“Pushing the boundaries of food technology will keep future explorers healthy and could even help feed people here at home.”

NASA believes that the solutions identified through this challenge could support food systems harsh environments in the arctic region, and also support greater food production in other milder environments.

These include major urban centres where vertical farming, urban agriculture and other novel food production techniques can play a more significant role.

Teams from all over the world can register themselves into the competition, the deadline for which is February 28, 2022.

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During the first stage of the competition in October 2021, 18 teams won a total of $450,000 for developing innovative food production technology that produces safe, palatable, high-quality and nutritious food.

Several teams proposed technologies that made ready-to-eat food products, while some were bread and dehydrated powders.

Some teams even produced innovative ideas like cultivated plants, fungi, or engineered foods like cultured meat cells.

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