Love food? Love space? NASA may have a job for you.
In February, NASA announced the "Deep Space Food Challenge" to help find a solution for one day bringing fresh produce to astronauts traveling thousands of miles away. And if you've got the answer, NASA will pay you a share of its $500,000 prize purse for it.
"The Deep Space Food Challenge is an international competition where NASA offers prize purse awards to U.S. teams and recognition to international teams. Teams are invited to create novel and game-changing food technologies or systems that require minimal inputs and maximize safe, nutritious, and palatable food outputs for long-duration space missions, and which have the potential to benefit people on Earth," NASA explained on its challenge website.
As NASA further noted, they currently have no real food system that can meet both the demands of extended space flights and the nutritional needs of the astronauts on board. But, beyond working for their own gain, NASA is also hoping the challenge can help solve a few problems for food sustainability on our home planet, too.
"Food insecurity is a significant chronic problem on Earth in urban, rural, and harsh environments and communities," NASA wrote, explaining specifically that disasters can disrupt supply chains, further aggravating food shortages. However, "efficient use of volume, water, and other inputs for producing food could enable technologies with reduced impact on the resources needed for food production here on Earth, especially in extreme environments and resource-scarce regions."
So, to win the challenge, the solution must "help fill food gaps for a three-year round-trip mission with no resupply," and "improve the accessibility of food on Earth, in particular, via production directly in urban centers and in remote and harsh environments."
Oh, and NASA noted, the food must also be tasty enough to satisfy a crew of four astronauts.
In Phase 1 of the challenge, NASA will reward up to 20 top scoring teams with $25,000 each and invite them to compete in Phase 2 (should Phase 2 open for competition). Teams must register by May 28, 2021, and submissions are due by July 31, 2021. Teams must meet the eligibility and rules requirements, which you can learn more about here.
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