As the first flight of the Artemis mission heads for the Moon, Cnes and chef Thierry Marx are working on feeding the future settlers of our natural satellite. Finding the right food will help humans settle there and further afield on Mars.
Top start of a long mission
After several postponements, the first Artemis mission finally took the direction of the Moon on Wednesday, November 16, 2022. It is the first of a series of three voyages which aim to return men to Earth’s natural satellite, forty years after the first feat.
If resources permit, NASA would like to make one flight a year around the Moon to build a space station there in the next few years. This permanent base will serve as an outpost for the conquest of Mars. The Europeans are also on the move with the European Space Agency (Esa) and a collaboration on the Artemis program.
A multidisciplinary team to find the right lunar recipes
If human beings achieved their goals, there would still be a question to be answered. What will astronauts eat on the Moon? Thermostabilized or irradiated foods can do the trick, but are not suitable for a very long presence. We have to find something else. And this is what the National Center for Space Studies (CNS), Toulouse researchers and chef Thierry Marx are working on. The latter has already concocted a few festive menus for Thomas Pesquet, during his last stay in the International Space Station (ISS).
The gastronomic challenge promises to be as great as weightlessness causes a loss of taste (ageusia) in astronauts. It will therefore be necessary to enhance the flavors to preserve the succulence of the dishes once on the Moon. Thierry Marx, co-founder of the “kitchen of the future” chair at the University of Paris-Saclay with Raphaël Haumont, will have to collaborate with other professionals in his field, producers, innovation players and scientists to find the right lunar recipes with the right ingredients. Not that easy !
Bright neon lights to mimic the times of day
But this team will not start from scratch. Indeed, it will be able to rely on the onboard greenhouse of the Toulouse start-up Orius, already selected by Cnes in its TechTheMoon incubator. The young shoot will provide its 500 kg stainless steel cube, which serves as an above-ground vegetable garden. This system distills water drop by drop and allows plants to do without inputs. Orius designed neon lights to mimic times of day to naturally stimulate crops. These will be able to grow as on Earth and produce the nutrients essential to human beings.
But what should you plant? Thierry Marx is thinking of herbaceous plants (marigolds or dill) or cabbage (kohlrabi, mizuna cabbage). For this cantor of molecular cuisine, space food should in any case taste like cabbage to concentrate more nutrients and consume less surface area. We can grow other foods by finding the best techniques. Specializing in supplies for cosmetics, the startup Orius will have to rely on researchers from the Purpan school of agricultural engineers to improve its system. It will also rely on specialists from the space clinic (Medes) to find out the needs of astronauts.