Phytocycle SD or 'Salad Machine'

The microgravity-suited Phytocycle SD salad growing machine.

I’ll cut straight to the chase – the Hawaii Space Exploration Analogue & Simulation (or HI-SEAS) experiment intends to put 10 scientists and engineers in a space-style pod for 4 months, and see what recipes they create with limited (non-perishable) ingredients, to inform future Mars missions.  That’s just cool.

Of course, even if the deadline hadn’t passed already (end of Feb) I wouldn’t have been eligible anyway.  That doesn’t stop my imagination from getting away from me!  An article on Gizmodo suggests they’ll be given “flour, sugar, beans, rice, olive oil, dehydrated meat and cheese”.  I don’t know if the cheese is dehydrated – unsure if they subscribe to the Oxford comma or not.  I asked on Facebook if they’ll be releasing more information about the ingredients and equipment available for those wanting to play along at home, and they say they will closer to the experiment date – early 2013.

I’m thinking they should bring seeds – cress would be a good addition and seeds have a good long shelf life.  They’d have greens for their plate in less than 3 days after planting – and cress doesn’t need soil.  If they did want to use the soil, then parsley might grow (the only Martian soil tested so far has a surprisingly alkaline pH of between 8 and 9).  Then you can get into stranger territory – why not grow some mealworms (they can be refrigerated live for months – they go into a sort of stasis) for some fresh ‘meat’?

Above, that fabulously colored spinning tank is the Phytocycle SD – a test machine used in the Mars-500 Russian experiment for growing salad – that lovely pink is the optimal blend of wavelengths for growing leafy plants (remember, the green color of the leaves means it’s reflecting all the green light and absorbing the rest).

Beyond that, flour, sugar, beans, rice, olive oil, dehydrated meat and cheese, could probably be combined in a thousand ways – several of them tasty.  If only my mind could stop trying to come up with recipes – 2013 is a long way away.

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