HONOLULU (AP) -- Researchers who have spent nearly four months simulating what it's like to live -- and eat -- on Mars are emerging from their experiment Tuesday on a barren Hawaii lava field.
The study funded by the U.S. space agency is researching what foods astronauts might cook during a mission to the red planet.
The University of Hawaii and Cornell University selected six people of various scientific backgrounds to make meals from a list of dehydrated and preserved food items that are not perishable. They looked at pre-prepared meals, similar to what astronauts currently eat, and concocted meals themselves in an attempt to combat food boredom and malnourishment.
The team's commander, Angelo Vermeule, has said that the problem with ingredients that aren't perishable is they're usually highly processed and lack fiber.
The study, Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, put out a call for recipes, which involved a lot of Spam. The canned meat, popular in Hawaii households, was a common ingredient because of its long shelf life, Binsted said.
The researchers prepared several dishes using Spam, such as Cajun jambalaya and a fried rice noodle dish. They had to rely on freeze-dried produce and meat.
"These freeze-dried foods are pretty close to fresh," Binsted said.
The researchers will emerge from their simulated Martian base for the first time without the mock space suits their experiment required whenever they ventured out of the dome.
"It will be the first time they feel fresh air on their faces," said Kim Binsted, a UH-Manoa associate professor.
Hawaii's temperate weather and the geological features of Mauna Loa, an active volcano, made for the ideal setting, Binsted said. The area is isolated and has no visible plant or animal life.
Binsted hopes to present findings at the International Astronautical Congress this year in Beijing.
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