Courtesy of University of Hawai‘i

Researchers taking part in the Mars simulation still grew an impressive list of produce including carrots, peppers, and cabbage.

Mike Pomranz
September 19, 2017

Let's just say… theoretically… that you spent eight months on Mars. What foods would you be craving when you got back? NASA has uncovered the answer… kind of. As part of NASA-funded research to simulate what life might be like for astronauts on the red planet, six research subjects finally emerged from their confined habitat on Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano over the weekend after eight months of being separated from the rest of the world. Their first post-Mars simulation grub: fresh fruit and eggs.

During their eight-month "mission," the menu inside the small dome they called home was limited mostly to freeze-dried food and the vegetables they grew themselves. Granted, the list of homegrown produce will still impress any amateur gardener. "Carrots, peppers, pak choy. Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, radishes, tomatoes, potatoes, tons of parsley and oregano," mission biology specialist Joshua Ehrlich said, explaining what he was able to grow during the stint, according to the Associated Press. "I mean it was phenomenal, just that delicious fresh taste from home really was good."

Courtesy of HI-SEAS V Crew

Still, the researchers were happy to be grubbing on the likes of fresh pineapple, mango, and papaya once outside. Also on their first menu back, fluffy egg strata—what would be a delicacy on Mars where the chicken population just isn't what it is on Earth.

The project was part of HI-SEAS, short for Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, which is helping to work towards NASA's goal of sending humans to Mars, possibly as soon as the 2030s. Though factors such as eating a limited menu have physical ramifications, part of this research is also to analyze the psychological impact of living in confined and necessarily self-sufficient circumstances as well. "It's really gratifying to know that the knowledge gained here from our mission and the other missions that HI-SEAS has done will contribute to the future exploration of Mars and the future exploration of Space in general," science officer Samuel Paylor said.

According to the AP, this mission was the fifth of a series of six NASA-funded HI-SEAS studies. As we've discussed in the past, NASA has also been working on growing produce like lettuce on the International Space Station, also with a long-duration Mars voyage in mind.