Risk of Performance Decrement and Crew Illness Due to an Inadequate Food System
Short Title: Food
Element: Space Human Factors and Habitability
RMAT Report Not Available
|Near Earth Asteroid
Given there is a constrained spaceflight environment with limited-source food supply, there is a possibility of performance decrement, illness, or loss of mission (LOM) due to an inadequate food system.
Food must be free from microbiological, chemical, and foreign matter contamination for up to five years of storage to provide a viable food system for the extended duration space missions. Inefficient sanitation, recordkeeping, processes, facilities and many other factors could cause contamination compromising crew health or survival.
Nutrition is essential for the crew by providing nutrients and energy through calories. Adequate nutritional content of the food for up to five years will ensure crew performance and protects the body from deficiencies that may cause disease.
Food acceptability, using sensory analysis, measures texture, appearance, flavor, aroma, and temperature of a food item. Acceptable food for up to five years encourages consumption and boosts crew morale by alleviating boredom and stress, and promotes unity amongst the crew during meal time.
Inefficient use of resources such as mass, volume, power, crew time, and waste disposal capacity affect mission success. All of these elements influence the safety and quality of flight.
The paramount importance of the food system in a long duration manned exploration mission cannot be underestimated. The food system provides not only the nutrients needed for the survival and health of the astronauts, but it also enhances the psychological well being of the crew by being a familiar element in an unfamiliar and hostile environment. Inadequacy of a food system can be influenced by four criteria: safety, nutrition, acceptability and an imbalance of vehicle resources such as mass, volume and crewtime. Since quality loss, which includes the critical components of nutrition and acceptability, will occur over the shelf life of the food, additional research is needed to improve the understanding of the nutritional content of the food when consumed and how much variety, acceptability, and ease of use is required for different duration missions. Research areas may include: shelf life studies including the effects of time, temperature and radiation; improvement in food preservation; improvement in food packaging, and evaluating the effect of the space environment and length of mission on food acceptability, variety, and ease of use. Research is also required for the food systems necessary to support EVA and contingency suited operations. The research will consider requirements to comply with the mission resources such as mass, volume, power, and crew time.
There is considerable overlap between the food system, nutrition requirements, and crew behavior and performance. The nutrition an astronaut receives is a function of both the nutritional content of the food and the amount of food that is actually consumed. Nutritional requirements are determined by looking at the physiological needs of the crew due to microgravity, space radiation, or stress, as examples. The food system delivers nutrition in the food. Any nutritional losses in the food due to shelf life, exposure to the outside environment, or through processing, need to be taken into account. The acceptability of the food system is closely related to crew performance since higher acceptability or variety of the food will improve the well being of the crewmember. Crewmembers tend to reduce food consumption when confronted with a lack of variety or unacceptable foods.
The approach the AFT Project has taken is to determine the technology gaps for a given mission. It may be that for missions of short duration there is no need for mitigation. Another type of mitigation is one based on less available upmass and volume allowed for food. Once the risk for the specific mission has been identified, then the AFT Project determines whether there are commercially available technologies that can mitigate the risk. If that is the case, then the project further evaluates the technology to determine whether the technology must be modified to approve the technology for flight.
If there is not a commercially available technology, then the AFT Project must develop the technology by initially determining the requirements of the new technology. Once the requirements are identified, the AFT Project determines whether to develop the technology internally in the Space Food Systems Laboratory, partner with other HRP Projects, or through a contract with external researchers. An alternative approach, which leverages Human Research Program funding by partnering with the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate (DoD CFD), uses a Military Interdepartmental Purchase Request (MIPR) between the AFT Project and DoD CFD.