Nutrition is a major concern for long-duration space missions and is critical to maintaining the health, safety and productivity of crew members. Astronauts survive by consuming preserved foods that are well packaged in a special manner to sustain astronauts during space mission. Therefore, Astronaut must also be provided with foods that meet their daily nutritional requirements.
In order to achieve the goal of sending Nigeria astronauts in space, a team of life scientists are involved in the formulation of food for Nigerian astronauts. The aim of this project is to design and develop various nutritional meals that can be specially created and modified to provide specific nutritional requirements for Nigerian astronauts.
Some selected indigenous foods have been enhanced and profiled to qualify as space food; a food that is energy dense with extended shelf life. Products from this study can also be marketed to other sub-populations such as members of the paramilitary and security agencies to meet their daily nutritional requirements. The scope of the project has been developed in line with the roadmap for the Nigerian Astronaut Program.
This project is divided into key sections including;
- Meal selection and design: Astronaut foods are selected to meet all nutritional needs for astronauts and must be generally accepted nationwide (indigenous food). Laboratory testing such as the proximate analysis and nutrient content, phytochemical analysis, antioxidant assay, antimicrobial assays and sensory evaluation will be performed to meet the nutritional needs of Astronauts.
- Meal/Food processing: The selected Nigerian meals will be processed using the appropriate space food processing method that best preserves nutrient content and extends shelf-life without compromising the taste/flavor of the food.
- Food packaging: This will involve selecting packaging materials that are easy to use and dispose-off in microgravity environment.
This research also provides future Nigerian astronauts with indigenous meal options that are nutrient dense, palatable and meet the standard criteria for space food.