NASA Deep Space Food Challenge Lands at CFAES

NASA Deep Space Food Challenge Lands at CFAES
Space Food Simunauts test novel food technologies

People everywhere need healthy food to grow and thrive. Even in space. A NASA challenge to develop safe, nutritious, and tasty food has landed at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. And four CFAES students get an out-of-this-world experience.  

Mission: The Deep Space Food Challenge, Phase 3
Agency: NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, administered by the Methuselah Foundation

Goal: Create sustainable food production technologies or systems for longer missions
Crew: CFAES students, called simunauts, on board to test out novel food inventions
Dates: June 3-August 14, 2024 

Meet the Simunauts


Fuanyi Fobellah
Food Sciences and Technology undergrad


Sakura Sugiyama
Recent Food Science and Technology graduate


Charlie Frick
Animal Sciences undergrad


Mehr Un Nisa
FST grad student

Thanks to our connection with Starlab—the land-based version of the George Washington Carver Space Park—at Ohio State, CFAES students will function as a space flight crew over eight weeks. After operational training for their mission, they'll test the novel technologies from four startups or companies and simulate food production during flight operations. Their reporting on each team's innovative technologies will inform NASA evaluations. Final project judging culminates in a public event and announcement of the winner on August 15 at the Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.  

CFAES Students embark on cosmic culinary quest
Learn more about their journey to this challenge in our latest story about the Simunauts. Check back for mission updates throughout the summer. We Sustain Life—in space!

Creating Food in Space

black planet with a red highlight, a spoon and fork encircle the planet like a ring

Many of the products you enjoy today were initially developed for space exploration. Think wireless headphones, memory foam, athletic shoes, air purifiers, camera phones, and laptops, just to name a few. Advancements like these are vital for space travelers but, in the end, we all benefit. The same goes for developing food systems for space.

On longer missions, astronauts will need to make or grow their own food due to limited storage options and scarce resources like water and light. The Deep Space Food Challenge aims to create food production technologies or systems to supplement the prepackaged diet of astronauts during lunar missions. Imagine how we could address food insecurity in hard-to-reach areas or harsh environments with solutions for communities or families to easily produce their own foods?

Learn more about the multi-stage prize competition here.  

The Finalists

In the third and final phase of the Deep Space Food Challenge, food production technologies from the four teams have been delivered to the Parker Food Science and Technology Building where our simunauts will begin ground testing for the final assessment. The teams and their innovations are: 

Interstellar Lab, Merritt Island, Florida
NUCLEUS, a bioregenerative growth system for microgreens, vegetables, mushrooms, and insects using minimal air, water, and nutrients. 

Kernel Deltech, Cape Canaveral, FL
A self-operating machine designed to grow fungi continuously in low-gravity environments while ensuring high yield and product safety.

Nolux, Riverside, CA
A growth system for plant- and fungal-based foods using artificial photosynthesis and converting waste products into food for mushrooms. 

SATED, Boulder, CO
Short for Safe Appliance, Tidy, Efficient, and Delicious, this space cooking appliance cooks browned foods made from shelf-stable and grown ingredients—like pizza—in zero and low gravity environments. 

This prize competition is administered by

red and grey logo for the Methuselah Foundation