Nutritional challenges and countermeasures for space travel


There has been a reinvigoration of public interest in space exploration in what has been deemed the new space race, which aims to eventually take humans to Mars in the 2030s. This type of Earth-independent deep space mission presents a multitude of challenges for providing astronauts with adequate nutrition, which are not currently posed by our presence in low earth orbit. For example, there are technical challenges associated with providing enough food with sufficient nutrient content, bioavailability and increased shelf life. Environmental stressors may also impact physiology and in turn affect nutritional status. Increased exposure of radiation, for example, causes changes in the gut and liver that might facilitate nutrient deficiency. Current or potential countermeasures for these challenges are explored including the use of bio-regenerative systems such as growing crops or biomass, or inducing torpor to reduce nutritional needs. Additionally, the beneficial role of nutrients has also been explored for alleviating the harmful effects of spaceflight exposure. It is clear that such countermeasures will be necessary to maintain astronaut health during long-duration missions to potentially counteract physiological stresses and to allow us to continue pushing the boundaries of space exploration.

In Nutrition Bulletin