Spam-fried noodles on Mars?

NASA-funded study explores dining options in a simulated Mars mission. And most of them don't look half bad.

Not too bad. A curried Spam-fried rice noodle dish submitted to the HI-SEAS recipe contest by Jenn Chow. Sian Proctor

Many questions surround the possibility of a manned mission to Mars, but perhaps the most fundamental comes down to something everyone faces daily: what to eat? Well, how about Cajun jambalaya, Moroccan beef tangine, no-crust quiche muffins, Crater Crunch bars, and fried noodles? Those were just a few of the dishes researchers noshed during a four-month Mars-mission simulation study.

The NASA-funded study into potential food options for a mission to Mars is wrapping up Tuesday. During four months in a barren lava field on the northern slope of Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano, six researchers dined on a variety of dehydrated and freeze-dried produce and meats, including jambalaya made with Spam.

The goal of the study, led by Cornell University and the University of Hawaii, was to expand current outer-space dining options so astronauts on a Mars mission could avoid malnourishment and food boredom.

As part of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), the researchers asked the public to submit recipe ideas, with one catch: all ingredients had to be non-perishable. This poses a culinary and health challenge, as team commander Angelo Vermeulen explained on the study's Web site, because most non-perishable foods are highly processed and low in fiber.

Recipes came in from around the world, and the crew posted photos of their favorites throughout the study.

The six-member crew, selected through an open application process in late 2012, included Vermeulen, along with materials scientist Yajaira Sierra-Sastre; science and technology journalist Kate Greene; research space scientist Oleg Abramov; astrophysicist and programmer Simon Engler; and Sian Proctor, a geology professor at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix.

Tuesday will be the group's first day outside of the dome without wearing a spacesuit. They've requested a day on the beach before heading back to the real world. See our gallery below for a taste of what they ate these past months.

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