Looking to make a couple of extra bucks in your spare time? Needing a side gig to get the bills paid in these trying times? Well, NASA might just have the opening for you if you have a certain subset of skills. That’s because the space agency is looking to have a very specific problem solved, something that could be the difference between life and death when it comes to venturing further and further out into space. NASA is upping the purse in their Deep Space Food Challenge to $1 million dollars for any individual or group who can help them figure out a system to feed and sustain astronauts during deep space travel. This is the second time the group has run the challenge but the stakes are really starting to increase now.
The official announcement from NASA was up on their website and outlined the details of the new challenge. In conjunction with the Canadien Space Agency, NASA is calling for those to help figure out elegant and replicable solutions for feeding astronauts while deep in space for extended periods of time. It has become one of the biggest hurdles in venturing further and further out in the cosmos, especially when the timelines are really starting to get extended now. It’s not good enough to just pack enough grub. The agency needs to know how it can replicate the process for extended timelines.
NASA describes the Deep Space Food Challenge as looking for folks to “develop innovative and sustainable food production technologies or systems that require minimal resources and produce minimal waste.” One of the issues, as described by the space agency is that all food, even of the packaged variety, loses its nutritional value over an extended time. No big deal for a quick jaunt to the moon and back. But when it comes to going to Mars and beyond, that becomes a bigger and bigger problem. The constraints for the challenge involve a new system that can work for three to four years and should involve everything with the process around eating which includes storing, preparing, delivering, processing, transporting, and ultimately disposing of the food.
The total prize package for the NASA Deep Space Food Challenge is $1 million dollars. Though that can be split up among a number of different contestants and participants of multiple viable solutions are presented to the group. That’s what happened the first time around when NASA culminated its initial challenge back in October. In all, 18 different individuals and groups split the $500,000 purse. Detailed explanations of these submissions can be found on the Deep Space Food Challenge website and some (a lot) of it gets quite technical. Examples include converting carbon dioxide and waste into food, 3D printed food systems, vertical grow systems, hydroponics, multi-purpose growth cabinets, and more.
The timeline for this new NASA challenge is currently underway with the initial registration deadline cutting off on February 28th. After that, it will be a year’s worth of submissions, testing, video demonstrations, and evaluations. The winner or winners won’t officially be announced until March of next year. This is serious business for NASA and they are likely to get another wide range of very cool ideas. Ultimately, this could be the turning point for a big part of space travel, knowing that astronauts will be fed throughout an extended period of time.