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With food production in space, NASA encourages innovations in astronauts’ menus

In the 2015 sci-fi film “The Martian,” Matt Damon plays an astronaut who survives on a diet of potatoes grown in human feces while stranded on the Red Planet.

Seeking creative solutions, a contest sponsored by NASA encourages the development of cutting-edge technologies to meet astronauts’ dietary needs.

A New York company, in the United States, that manufactures jet fuel with negative carbon, takes the menu of interplanetary cuisine in a very different direction from that experienced in science fiction. The innovation placed the company in the final of NASA’s competition.

Brooklyn-based Air Company is pioneering a way to recycle the carbon dioxide exhaled by astronauts in flight to develop yeast-based nutrients for protein shakes designed to nourish crews on long-duration deep-space missions.

“It’s definitely more nutritious than Tang,” said company co-founder and chief technology officer Stafford Sheehan, referring to the powdered drink popularized in 1962 by John Glenn, when he became the first American to orbit Earth.

Sheehan, who has a doctorate in physical chemistry from Yale University, said he originally developed his carbon conversion technology as a means of producing high-purity alcohol for jet fuel, perfume and vodka.

The NASA-sponsored Deep Space Food Challenge led Sheehan to modify his invention as a way to produce proteins, carbohydrates and edible fats from the same system.

The single-cell protein drink resulting from the NASA contest has the consistency of a whey protein shake, Sheehan said. Sheehan compared its taste to that of seitan, a tofu-like food made from wheat gluten that originated in East Asian cuisine and adopted by vegetarians as a meat substitute.

“And you get that sweet, almost malty flavor,” Sheehan declared in an interview.

Source: CNN Brasil

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