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Contact: Karina De Castris
European Space Agency

Meals for martians

What will astronauts eat on Mars?
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Look around any supermarket and you will see thousands of different types of food. A typical café or restaurant may have a dozen or more items on the menu. But what will be eaten by the first astronauts who land on Mars?

In an effort to answer this question, ESA asked French chefs at the companies GEM and Alain Ducasse Formation (ADF) to create Martian meals. Their task was to make tasty dishes using only a few ingredients that could be grown in greenhouses far from Earth.

They came up with 11 incredible recipes, including 'Martian bread and green tomato jam', 'Spiruline gnocchis' and 'Potatoes and tomatoes mille feuilles'. "Following intensive work, we finally have created healthy, tasty and fresh dishes, which is the realisation of a great challenge," said Armand Arnal, the chef who created the recipes.

Armand's nine basic ingredients were: rice, onion, tomato, soya, potato, lettuce, spinach, wheat and spirulina. All of these are well known except spirulina, a type of blue-green seaweed that contains many proteins, calcium, carbohydrates and vitamins – ideal eating for astronauts working in extreme environments.

The nine food crops had to account for at least 40% (two-fifths) of the final recipe. The rest could be made up of extra vegetables, herbs, oil, butter, salt and other seasoning brought from Earth. "Why 40%? The plants will then be able to produce enough air and water for people to live," said Christophe Lasseur of ESA. "We get 'for free' the needed oxygen and water."