Mission to munch: Simulated Mars mission aims to find best menu for trip

You can apply for astronaut 'taste test'

A joint study between researchers from Cornell University and University of Hawaii-Manoa promises to keep things interesting on a simulated mission to Mars -- at least in the kitchen.

One of NASA's concerns about sending a crew on a three-year journey to the Red Planet is something called "menu fatigue."  Months and months of eating the same, freeze-dried, prepared foods that astronauts usually eat in space (given the inability to cook much of anything) can cause even those with normally healthy appetites to eat less. 

University of Hawaii researchers say this would be a big problem on a mission because if the astronauts' overall food intake declines, they would be at risk for nutritional deficiency, loss of bone and muscle mass, and reduced physical capabilities. 

To solve the problem, USA Today says researchers have set up a study that requires applicants to "live essentially like astronauts" for four months, dressing in simulated space suits and eating a mix of the prepared foods NASA astronauts eat today and some shelf-stable foods, such as flour, sugar and freeze-dried meats, for making their own meals.

The half-dozen volunteers chosen will move into a simulated Mars base on a Hawaii lava flow for four months in 2013 for the study -- and researchers are taking applications until February 29.  If you are interested in finding out more about the study or want to apply, you can find out more at the University of Hawaii's Web site.

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