Risk of Performance Decrement and Crew Illness Due to an Inadequate Food SystemNASA is preparing for long duration manned missions beyond low-Earth orbit that will be challenged in several ways, including long-term exposure to the space environment, impacts to crew physiological and psychological health, limited resources, and no resupply. The food system is one of the most significant daily factors that can be altered to improve human health, and performance during space exploration. Therefore, the paramount importance of determining the methods, technologies, and requirements to provide a safe, nutritious, and acceptable food system that promotes crew health and performance cannot be underestimated. The processed and prepackaged food system is the main source of nutrition to the crew, therefore significant losses in nutrition, either through degradation of nutrients during processing and storage or inadequate food intake due to low acceptability, variety, or usability, may significantly compromise the crew's health and performance. Shelf life studies indicate that key nutrients and quality factors in many space foods degrade to concerning levels within three years, suggesting that food system will not meet the nutrition and acceptability requirements of a long duration mission beyond low-Earth orbit. Likewise, mass and volume evaluations indicate that the current food system is a significant resource burden. Alternative provisioning strategies, such as inclusion of bioregenerative foods, are challenged with resource requirements, and food safety and scarcity concerns. Ensuring provisioning of an adequate food system relies not only upon determining technologies, and requirements for nutrition, quality, and safety, but upon establishing a food system that will support nutritional adequacy, even with individual crew preference and self-selection. In short, the space food system is challenged to maintain safety, nutrition, and acceptability for all phases of an exploration mission within resource constraints. This document presents the evidence for the Risk of Performance Decrement and Crew Illness Due to an Inadequate Food System and the gaps in relation to exploration, as identified by the NASA Human Research Program (HRP). The research reviewed here indicates strategies to establish methods, technologies, and requirements that increase food stability, support adequate nutrition, quality, and variety, enable supplementation with grow-pick-and-eat salad crops, ensure safety, and reduce resource use. Obtaining the evidence to establish an adequate food system is essential, as the resources allocated to the food system may be defined based on the data relating nutritional stability and food quality requirements to crew performance and health.
Douglas, Grace L. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Cooper, Maya (Leidos, Inc. Reston, VA, United States)
Bermudez-Aguirre, Daniela (Lockheed Martin Corp. Houston, TX, United States)
Sirmons, Takiyah (Leidos, Inc. Reston, VA, United States)