Project

Space Food & Sensory Experiences

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Maggie Coblentz

Maggie Coblentz

The human experience of food extends far beyond that of mere nourishment. Debriefs with astronauts tell us that food is a key creature comfort in spaceflight, and it will play an even more significant role for long duration space travel and future life in other orbits. How can we best meet the nutritional, performance, and emotional needs of astronauts through food? Our Space Food and Sensory Experiences research area aims to address the unique challenges associated with eating in space--from the microbiome scale to the “Envirome” scale--including fermentation and probiotics, preservation of freshness and nutrient quality, improving waning or shifting appetite, food stimuli (e.g. spice) to counteract loss of smell, varying the food forms and packaging interaction for increased interest in eating, and communal, cultural experience sharing for mental health and wellbeing. This research area explicitly addresses earth-based markets as well, as the foods, packaging, and eating experiences developed for Space can be re-used in many Earth contexts.

Research Areas

Social Wellbeing. Immersive augmented reality experiences can pr… View full description

The human experience of food extends far beyond that of mere nourishment. Debriefs with astronauts tell us that food is a key creature comfort in spaceflight, and it will play an even more significant role for long duration space travel and future life in other orbits. How can we best meet the nutritional, performance, and emotional needs of astronauts through food? Our Space Food and Sensory Experiences research area aims to address the unique challenges associated with eating in space--from the microbiome scale to the “Envirome” scale--including fermentation and probiotics, preservation of freshness and nutrient quality, improving waning or shifting appetite, food stimuli (e.g. spice) to counteract loss of smell, varying the food forms and packaging interaction for increased interest in eating, and communal, cultural experience sharing for mental health and wellbeing. This research area explicitly addresses earth-based markets as well, as the foods, packaging, and eating experiences developed for Space can be re-used in many Earth contexts.

Research Areas

Social Wellbeing. Immersive augmented reality experiences can promote wellbeing and enhance the experience of eating. Recent space food workshops at SEI with veteran astronauts Paolo Nespoli (ESA) and Cady Coleman (NASA ret.) proved that VR was a highly effective and emotive tool to connect to home and engage with food. For example, homesick astronauts could visit family and friends at their favorite restaurant on Earth by way of a virtual, communal dinner gathering. We are designing augmented reality experiences to pair with space food.

Nutritional Science and Edible Forms. We are exploring 3D printing to create new food forms in space, starting from a suite of highly nutritious or taste-stimulating basic ingredients. Innovative packaging materials (based on polyethylene) can be recycled in a new process we are developing, to transform all non-food waste into a 3D printer source of material as well.

Appetite. Many astronauts suffer from loss of appetite in outer space. Appetite is influenced by cross-modal sensory interactions, the physiological elements of oral processing, mood, food structure and texture. We are designing a) foods and holistic eating experiences to help increase appetite and fulfill nutritional requirements and b) multisensory pre-meal experiences to promote the anticipation of eating and stimulate digestion (e.g. the smell of onions frying, or sounds of cooking preparation). In addition, we are compiling a “Zero Gravity Cookbook” to gather space-tested and newly proposed recipes from Astronauts and chefs around the world. 

Prototypes, Testing, and Product Development

A tasting menu will be deployed on upcoming zero gravity flights and shared with ISS-mission-veteran astronauts for taste-testing and further development. We are also developing fermentation food products for longer term food consumption and habitation in space.

Stay tuned for results from our zero gravity flight, upcoming Blue Origin suborbital launches, and deployments on the ISS.

For inquiries about the research, please direct questions to Maggie Coblentz (mcoblent@media.mit.edu) and Ariel Ekblaw (aekblaw@media.mit.edu). 

Research Topics
#design #food #space #zero gravity

Copyright

Maggie Coblentz

Copyright

Maggie Coblentz

Copyright

Maggie Coblentz