The intersection of space-based and terrestrial food production
Food is a critical component of all human space exploration missions; but even more so for future missions to the Moon and Mars. As space missions increase in duration and extend further away from Earth there is a need to reduce the resupply of food from Earth while at the same time provide astronauts enjoyable, yet nutritious foods, to ensure they remain at their physical and psychological best. Innovative food systems that maximize safe and nutritious food outputs, with minimal inputs, will be key for sustainable human presence on the lunar surface and for future missions to Mars.
How can food production innovations benefit both people on Earth and astronauts in space?
Food security is a significant chronic challenge on Earth in urban, rural, Northern and remote communities, and within “harsh” environments. Through this challenge, innovators will develop compact and novel advanced food production solutions that have the potential to further enhance local production, reduce food supply chain shortages, and reduce the impact on the resources needed for food production in extreme environments, disaster-affected areas and resource-scarce regions.
The Deep Space Food Challenge is a joint prize competition launched in parallel by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the National Aeronautics and the Space Administration (NASA) Centennial Challenges Program, and their allied organization, the Methuselah Foundation.
International collaboration has been key to the success of countless space missions. This Challenge represents a first of its kind collaboration between CSA and NASA in the organization of a prize competition to support the space policies of the Government of Canada and the United States Government while having broader terrestrial benefits.
The Canadian component of the Deep Space Food Challenge is intended to incentivize Canadian innovators to advance food production technologies to support long-duration missions in space and to improve the accessibility of nutritious food across Canada, including the North.
The Deep Space Food Challenge seeks to create novel food production technologies or systems that require minimal inputs and maximize safe, nutritious, and palatable food outputs for long-duration space missions, and which have potential to benefit people on Earth.
The Deep Space Food Challenge is a stage-gated challenge and is expected to be comprised of three phases:
- Phase 1: Design Report – Challenge launched on January 12, 2021. Applications are open until July 30, 2021. Teams will provide a detailed explanation of a design for a novel food production technology that meets the Challenge goals and performance criteria.
- Phase 2: Kitchen Demonstration – Beginning in Fall 2021, Semi-Finalists selected in Phase 1 will move on to Phase 2, where they will need to build a food production technology prototype (equivalent to a TRL 4) and have their prototype take part in a Kitchen-Level demonstration with samples of food outputs. Those who are successful in this phase will move on as a Finalist in Phase 3.
Note: New interested Applicants may be able to apply and participate directly in Phase 2. Further details will be provided prior to the launch of Phase 2.
- Phase 3: Full System Demonstration – At this stage, selected Finalists will have 12-18 months to build a full-scale food production technology and demonstrate the technology at an appropriate facility, and will be competing to be the Grand Prize Winner of the Challenge.
- Canadian Grand Prize Winner for The Deep Space Food Challenge – announced in Spring 2024.
For U.S. and Other International Applicants, note that at this time, NASA has only released official rules for Phase 1. For additional details on the NASA-managed competition, visit deepspacefoodchallenge.org.