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Astronaut Food Gets Tasty Update

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April 8, 2012

It's not exactly melt-in-your-mouth, but a new idea for space food should have astronauts licking their lips with anticipation.

Stellar Strips are the invention of a group of North Carolina high school students, as part of an entry in the Spirit of Innovation Challenge, which took place at the NASA Ames Research Center at California's Moffett Field, on March 29-31.

The strips dissolve in the mouth after leaving a specific taste. Along with the flavor, the strips could hold in nutrients like Vitamin C and calcium salts, which astronauts would need a lot of to help fight bone less in the weightlessness of space.

For the Spirit of Innovation Challenge, the students prepared a sour-lemon-flavored strip. The key would be that the strip was self-dissolving, so that astronauts wouldn't need to use their hands any further to get the desired result, which was more flavor.

In the small gravity of space, astronauts experience clogged sinuses and very much reduced taste buds, so much so that everything starts to taste the same. In order to try to counteract this, they sometimes use sauces, spices, and other food additives. The problem is the lack of gravity, which can make sauces dribble out of jars and spice powders float in the air, not stay on the food.

The strips were an entry in a competition, but the student developers were already planning to introduced the technology here on Earth, such as for chemotherapy patients who had lots their sense of taste.

In addition to the sour lemon flavor, the students were working on sweet, sour, and salty flavors.

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