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Space Pen Redux?

Sure, quality of life is important on a long space voyage, but…will astronauts really need to bring the whole kitchen along?

Future long-duration space crews may need up to 40 different food processing machines to turn crops such as wheat and tomatoes into edible foods like bread and cereals, NASA officials estimated.

Now, granted, there are lots of steps between plant and table, many of which we don’t see nowadays due to the wonders of industrialized agriculture. But…agriculture hasn’t always been mechanized, and has only recently been heavily mechanized. Wouldn’t it make more sense to concentrate on crops which can be grown, harvested, and brought to the table with the fewest unique tools? Or, for that matter, to reengineer common food crops to reduce up-front the amount of processing required?

I realize that this may just be a bit of “science fair” research…work done more in the interest of generating and demonstrating new ideas of what can be done than to develop wholly practical applications. But the article is somewhat misleading in that it suggests the opposite.

Either way, this seems to completely miss the point:

Food engineer Paul Singh, of the University of California at Davis, built a prototype device that processes tomatoes into pretty much any form needed for a meal during a mission to Mars to beyond.

“It’s a tomato processing plant, a benchtop device that slices, dices cuts and purees,” Perchonok said, adding that a space food processor must be both multi-purpose and miniaturized.

There’s a perfectly reliable, inexpensive, TRL-9 piece of technology already available that fits the bill — it’s called a knife. Sure, technology which is older than human civilization doesn’t quite have the same geek cachet as a sophisticated space-age widget, but at least it’s guaranteed to work.

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