Humanity has accomplished a lot when it comes to space exploration, but one of the things we haven’t quite cracked yet is food. As NASA is planning on going to Mars in the near future, they need to figure out a way for their astronauts to be fed. Currently, astronauts just eat pre-packaged food that is regularly sent up to them, but NASA wants a more elegant solution.
That’s why they created the Deep Space Food Challenge in coordination with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Anyone in the public can help develop creative and sustainable food production technologies or systems and can submit to be considered by NASA. Since the food will be eaten in space, the solutions must minimise resources and waste.
Phase 1 of the challenge started last year and ended in October 2021 when 18 teams were awarded a total of USD 450,000 (~RM1,888,200) for their technology. The next step, Phase 2, involves actually building and demonstrating prototypes of the designs and producing the food for judging. The prize pool for this phase jumps to USD 1 million (~RM4,196,000).
Unfortunately, the cash prizes are only awarded for teams based in the United States, but this is understandable since NASA is a government agency. International teams can still enter and will be considered for recognition awards. Up to five top-scoring international team finalists will move on to compete in the final on-site demonstration, and up to three top-scoring international teams will be recognized as Phase 2 challenge winners.
Phase 2 welcomes both new and existing teams from Phase 1, from any country. If you’re thinking of joining, you can visit their website and follow the steps provided.
The winners from Phase 1 are already announced and you can watch the video below to see the kind of solutions they are looking for. A lot of the winners implement things like microfungi and efficient cropping systems.