"The problem with the meals they have right now is there sort of like TV dinners; they're individual pre-prepared meals, which is fine for the space station but the astronauts just don't eat enough of them and they end up being a bit under-nourished," Kim Binsted, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said. "And they're wasteful of space, and mass and packaging and so on. So what we're looking at, is can we give them basic ingredients - things like flour, like powdered milk, and ask them to make their own meals. "
The goal is to prevent astronauts from "food fatigue," which comes from eating a restricted diet over the course of several months. This also leads to nutritional deficiency and reduced physical capabilities.
Scientists are giving the volunteers bulk ingredients and asking them to prepare diverse meals themselves.
"It's not quite cooking - we imagine cooking being lots of bowls of different ingredients making up something wonderful, this is more on the order of combining some pasta with some protein and a sauce," Binsted said.
Eight volunteers with a degree in science or engineering are needed for the four-month study. They'll live in an 800 square-foot habitat on the lava flows of the Mauna Loa volcano.
"It's very mars-like to look at; it's got very red rocks and is stark - there's no plant life around anywhere," Binsted said. "This is important because we're going to be looking at the crew's psychology over time, so they need to be in a place that's very isolated, doesn't have any vegetable life, and is very Mars-like."
The deadline to apply is the end of February. To view the full application and learn more about the study, visit: http://manoa.hawaii.edu/hi-seas/
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