NASA and the Canadian Space Agency launched the Deep Space Food Challenge to address the need for healthy food on long-term space missions. San Francisco design firm Nonfiction created the Space Culinary Lab, a compact kitchen system called Astra Gastronomy. It enables astronauts to grow algae and leafy greens, grill meat, and make creamy coffee in space. The lab aims to fight taste bud dullness and craving loss caused by extended space travel by providing astronauts with a variety of food choices to bring a sense of humanity to the space environment.

The Space Culinary Lab consists of four modules: munch, sizzle, yum, and snap. The snap module offers a green wall of microgreens, providing flavor and psychological benefits. The munch module grows microalgae in a bioreactor for a nutritious snack. The sizzle module uses a mini microwave drawer to “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. The algae was shaped into balls or cubes and remained fresh for a few days. Taste combinations were carefully chosen to balance flavors and lessen the algae aftertaste. Savory mixes included peanut butter, oats, onion powder, vinegar, and algae, while sweet blends combined fruit powders with algae.