As an alternative to prepackaged meals, the Fab@Home team at Cornell University is trying to create 3-D printed food for astronauts. Adam Mann covers their efforts:
A 3-D printer could mix vitamins and amino acids into a meal to provide nutrients and boost productivity. There are limitations to the types of fresh foods that can be grown in space – NASA says some of the best crops for a Mars mission are lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes. With that you could make a salad, but a 3-D printer could manufacture croutons or protein-dense supplements. The device could take up less space than a supply of packets of food and, because each item is custom built, would help cut down on waste.
One big hurdle:
In the earliest tests of the hydrocolloid 3-D food printer, the Cornell team produced different fake items — bananas, mushrooms, mozzarella – all with the appropriate texture and flavor. “We quickly ran into the yuck factor,” said engineer JeffreyLipton, who leads Cornell’s Fab@Home lab, which makes open-source 3-D printer kits. “It was the Uncanny Valley of food,” he added. It was very close to, but still unlike, the cuisine people expected.
(Photo: A deep-fried space shuttle scallop built using Cornell’s Fab@Home 3-D food printer. Credit: Fab@Home)