Don’t you think the barren lava fields of the Hawaii Island look a lot like Mars?

Turns out, scientists think so too and say that the fields near Mauna Loa do, in fact, mimic Martian conditions. So much so, that they chose this location as the site for a simulated Mars mission.

The mission tests new types of food and food prep strategies to keep astronauts well-nourished during a longterm space exploration. A crew of six researchers have been on the four-month mission since April, trying out meals from a list of dehydrated and shelf-stable food items. The experiment is hosted by the University of Hawaii and Cornell University.

Perhaps the biggest issue astronauts face, according to experts, is menu fatigue. That’s when they tire of eating foods they normally eat and therefore, eat less of it. This can put them at risk of nutritional deficiency and bone/muscle loss.

Not too long after the mission launched, researchers found themselves defending themselves against national criticism. Republican Sen. Rand Paul made fun of the federally-funded research program, which pays its participants $5,000 for basically eating.

However, it is much more than just eating; there’s a lot of value behind the mission, researchers say. While it may take about three days each way to get to the moon, it takes about three years to go to Mars and back. Therefore, it is important that astronauts determine food supplies that will last that long.


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