Categories: MissionsScience

Dream Job: Go to Hawaii and Eat Astronaut Food


If you’ve always dreamed of being an astronaut here’s the next best thing, and the location couldn’t be more idyllic. Scientists from Cornell and the University of Hawaii are conducting a 120-day Mars exploration analog study in a simulated Mars habitat on the lava fields of the Big Island of Hawai’i. The study will focus on the diets of six volunteers, who will be required to live and work like astronauts, including suiting up in space gear whenever they head outside of their habitat. But the emphasis will be for participants compare two types of foods: crew-cooked vs. pre-prepared, in order to avoid what has been termed “menu fatigue” over a long-duration mission. Applications are currently being taken for the job.

Jean Hunter, associate professor of biological and environmental engineering at Cornell and several colleagues have received a $947,000 NASA grant for the study, the Hawaii Space Exploration Analogue & Simulation, or HI-SEAS. Hunter said current astronauts on the International Space Station not only tire of eating foods they normally enjoy but also tend to eat less, which can put them at risk for nutritional deficiency, loss of bone and muscle mass, and reduced physical capabilities. Plus, all foods decline in nutritional quality over time, and only a few of the many available astronaut foods have the three-to-five-year shelf life required for a Mars mission.

Bags of Space Station food and utensils on tray. Credit: NASA

So, the participants will also help determine how being on a landed mission on Mars would make different ways of cooking — and perhaps gardening — possible, which would give the astronauts more food variety and relieve menu fatigue.

So, the study will help determine the palatability of ‘instant’ foods and food prepared by the crew from shelf stable ingredients, and determine whether food acceptability changes over time. It will also help estimate use of crew time, power, and water for meal preparation and cleanup, for both instant and crew-cooked foods and determine if crewmembers’ taste and smelling acuity change over time.

Participants chosen will need to attend a workshop and two-week training mission. Round trip travel, food and lodging expenses are provided. The crew will receive $5,000 as compensation. The researchers said the qualifications for people applying for the study are similar to those required by NASA for their astronaut applicants.

Hurry, as the deadline is 11:59pm Hawaii time on February 29th, 2012. You can find more information and the application form at the HI-SEAS website. You can also check out their Facebook page.

Good luck (Pomaika`i)!

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at and and Instagram at and

Recent Posts

27 to 78 cm of sea Level Rise Could be Locked in From Melting Greenland ice Caps

Recent climate research, published in the Nature Climate Change journal has confirmed that melting icecaps…

14 hours ago

Underground Liquid Water Detected on Mars? Maybe not

New research from Cornell University shows that radar reading from Mars' South Pole region may…

20 hours ago

LICIACube Sends Home Images of the DART Impact and the Damage to Dimorphos

The Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube) has returned a series of close-up…

22 hours ago

After Getting Slammed by DART, Asteroid Dimorphos has Grown a Tail

More images and details keep coming in about the asteroid intentionally smashed by NASA’s Double…

23 hours ago

Gaze Down Into the eye of Hurricane Ian, Seen From Orbit

NASA and NOAA satellites -- as well as astronauts on the ISS -- captured some…

1 day ago

Scientists Have Been Underestimating the Asteroid That Created the Biggest Known Crater on Earth

Ancient impacts played a powerful role in Earth's complex history. On other Solar System bodies…

2 days ago