From the Ground Up: Preserving space food for scientists and future tourists

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 10:15 AM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Scientists today are developing ways to not only make our food longer lasting, but better tasting too. This mission for fresh, quality food is an undertaking right here in the Brazos Valley, working to make sure that not only do the astronauts have good food to eat on their missions, but when it comes time for you and I to take to the stars, our bellies are taken care of, too.

Suresh Pillai is the director of the Center of Electron Beam Processing at A&M.

“This is kind of the one well kept secret, is that we do the food for the space station at Texas A&M University,” Pillai says. Electron beam processing is a method of cleaning and preserving food that zaps harmful insects and bacteria, keeping food fresh without sacrificing quality. “We have done data studies here to show that once its appropriately packaged rice can be stored for up to seven, [even] eight years.”

Which is crucial for longer space missions for the future, planned around the solar system. But researchers are working with scientists planning on moving beyond our atmosphere, to an emerging out of this world enterprise.

“We do that for things that are for the earth and beyond, so we are very closely working with businesses that are targeting space tourism,” Pillai says.

So our next joy ride through space, whenever that may be, may have electron beam processed meals straight from Aggieland. And we’re not just talking space ice cream and dehydrated fruit. Scientists are working to make the food not only cleaner, but more palatable too.

“All the studies showed that the flavor profiles were better with the EBP, that mangos could ripen longer on the tree, and they could last longer after being EB treated,” PIllai says. “You are not now just creating food for them to eat, but food for them to enjoy.”

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