Foods for a Mission to Mars: Investigations of Low-Dose Gamma Radiation Effects
Document Type Article
Food must be safe, nutritious, and acceptable throughout a long duration mission to maintain the health, well-being, and productivity of the astronauts. In addition to a developing a stable pre-packaged food supply, research is required to better understand the ability to convert edible biomass into safe, nutritious, and acceptable food products in a closed system with many restrictions (mass, volume, power, crew time, etc.). An understanding of how storage conditions encountered in a long-term space mission, such as elevated radiation, will impact food quality is also needed. The focus of this project was to contribute to the development of the highest quality food system possible for the duration of a mission, considering shelf-stable extended shelf-life foods, bulk ingredients, and crops to be grown in space. The impacts of space-relevant radiation doses on food, bulk ingredient, and select candidate crop quality and antioxidant capacity were determined. Interestingly, increasing gamma-radiation doses (0 to 1000 Gy) did not always increase dose-related effects in foods. Intermediate radiation doses (10 to 800Gy) often had significantly larger impact on the stability of bulk ingredient oils than higher (≥1000Gy) radiation doses. Overall, most food, ingredient, and crop systems investigated showed no significant differences between control samples and those treated with 3 Gy of gamma radiation (the upper limit estimated for a mission to Mars). However, this does not mean that all foods will be stable for 3-5 years, nor does it mean that foods are stable to space radiation comprising more than gamma rays.