NASA and the Canadian Space Agency initiated the Deep Space Food Challenge to address the need for nutritious food during long-term space missions, including future trips to Mars. A team at a design and innovation firm based in San Francisco called Nonfiction, called Astra Gastronomy, developed the Space Culinary Lab. This compact kitchen system allows astronauts to grow algae and leafy greens, grill meat, and blend creamy coffee in space. The lab aims to provide astronauts with variety in their food choices, combating taste bud dullness and appetite loss caused by long-duration space travel. The design emphasizes the importance of fresh food and aims to bring a sense of humanity to space.

The Space Culinary Lab consists of different modules: munch, sizzle, yum, and snap. The snap module provides a green wall of microgreens, offering both flavor and psychological benefits to astronauts. The munch module grows microalgae in a bioreactor, providing a nutritious snack option. The sizzle module uses a miniature microwave drawer to heat and “grill” rehydrated meats, vegetables, tofu, and tortillas. The yum module is a creaming machine that emulsifies water and oil-based ingredients to create beverages and sauces. During a taste test, the culinary lab’s futuristic space food was sampled, including space coffee and algae mixed with different flavors. The algae was blended with ingredients, shaped into balls or cubes, and remained fresh for two to three days. The taste combinations were carefully selected to balance flavors and minimize the algae aftertaste. One mix included peanut butter, oats, onion powder, vinegar, and algae, providing a savory flavor, while another blend mixed fruit powders with algae for a sweet treat.