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Omega Patties

Astronaut food has come a long way since the days of freeze-dried astronaut ice cream and Tang. Still, a lengthy mission to Mars would require the creation of a varied and nutritious menu for the explorers. Researchers from Cornell University and the University of Hawaii recently solicited recipes from the public in hopes of expanding the menu of suitable snacks for a long spaceflight.

Recipes for the Meals for Mars contest had to meet certain requirements. They had to be made from only shelf-stable foods. The crew posted a list of available ingredients, which included a healthy list of spices, freeze-dried fruits, canned meats, and cheese powders. They also requested that water be conserved, a challenge considering so many of the ingredients have to be reconstituted to make them usable.

Some of the submitted recipes came with creative names. The Omega Patties created by Aquilla Eflindale are actually salmon patties. "Their meaty flavor is sure to please the long way from home carnivores," Elfindale said about the recipe. Test subjects with the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project liked the recipe for how simple it is to prepare. Ground flax seed adds to the nutritional value, an important consideration for astronaut health.

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Campfire Hash

Eating in space often means sacrificing the aesthetics of food. Campfire Hash, a third-place winner in the Meals for Mars contest, is no exception. The content is more important than the looks. Jessica McPeake, a tech exec who runs a vegan cooking Web site, created the hash recipe using plenty of rehydrated veggies, including potatoes, carrots, spinach, tomato, and bell peppers.

The Campfire Hash doesn't sacrifice protein for veggies. It includes a mix made from beans and texturized vegetable protein. Mars astronauts will need to have a well-rounded diet to stay healthy. A crema topping made from water-soaked cashews and lime juice powder adds a gourmet touch.

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Spam Musabi ingredients

Just because astronauts are flying all the way to Mars doesn't mean they have to go without sushi-like foods. Spam musubi is a popular treat in Hawaii, which is where a recent four-month study into eating on long spaceflights took place. A Spam musubi recipe by Sarah Rose took third place in the "side dishes" category for the Meals for Mars contest.

This recipe was prepared as a special one-month anniversary treat for the study crew of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS). It satisfied one of the crew member's hankerings for sushi. It also uses few ingredients and would be fairly simple to prepare in the cramped quarters of a Mars expedition.

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Chicken and Spinach Enchilada Soup

The crew of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation has been trying out recipes submitted by the public in order to find more varied dining options for a long mission to Mars. One requirement for the Meals for Mars contest was that all the ingredients had to be non-perishable. That didn't hinder Karin Shank from creating a chicken and spinach enchilada soup, which earned second place honors in the "soups and stews" category.

The enchilada soup actually looks like something you might find in a restaurant. The paprika garnish adds visual interest. The soup is created with freeze-dried jalapenos, dehydrated spinach, and chili powder for kick. The secret ingredient is Velveeta, which seems to pass the non-perishable test.

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Spam ‘n Egg Baowich

This Spam-n-Egg Baowich created by Don Chow came in second place in the Meals for Mars contest "breakfast" category. This variation on the classic breakfast sandwich involves making the biscuit from scratch and filling it with Spam, reconstituted eggs, and dehydrated Colby cheese that has been brought back to life with the addition of water. It's about as close as a Mars astronaut could get to having an Egg McMuffin in space.

Crew members prepared and tested recipes during a four-month study in a lava field on the slope of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. That location might explain the prevalence of Spam as an ingredient in many of the recipes.

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Crater Crunch Bars

If you're going to nosh on Mars, you might as well eat something inspired by the surface of the Red Planet. Annie Albert submitted a recipe for Crater Crunch Bars to the Meals for Mars contest and racked up a third place finish in the "snacks and desserts" category.

Crew members with the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation tried the recipe during a four-month study into foods fit for space. The snack bars were inspired by both the craters of Hawaii and those of Mars. If it ever gets made in space, then it should help satisfy any chocolate cravings among the astronauts.

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Dark Matter Cake

Aquilla Elfindale, the creator of the main dish Omega patties, also garnered first place in desserts for the Meals for Mars contest. The Dark Matter Cake with Stardust Frosting is a chocolate bomb that also uses hazelnut coffee for flavor. A surprise ingredient that helps keep the cake moist is a good helping of mayonnaise.

Initially, the crew of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation was unsure about the addition of mayo, but they gave the recipe rave reviews after trying it out. One of the goals of the space food study was to find ways to prevent food boredom during expeditions. This recipe is proof that astronaut food doesn't have to be all about reconstituted vegetables. There is still room for dessert in space.

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Monthly food bins

Keeping astronauts well fed on a long trip to Mars will be a challenge. Crew members with the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation project have been trying out recipes using only non-perishable food items. The volunteers had go into the study with four months' worth of food. That food had to be inventoried and tracked. Sorting the food into monthly bins helped with keeping a handle on the inventory.

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Habitat dome

Six crew members volunteered for a four-month mission to study what culinary life might be like on Mars. The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation is located in a habitat dome on the side of a volcano. Crew members have been living in the habitat and testing out potential recipes for food to eat on a long Mars expedition.

The public was invited to submit recipes for the Meals for Mars contest. The crew tested the recipes and chose a set of winners, ranging from salmon burgers to chocolate cake.

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