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NASA's Deep Space Food Challenge awards $450,000 to first-round winners

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency have teamed up for the Deep Space Food Challenge, which aims to spur new ideas about how to feed astronauts on long voyages.
NASA and the Canadian Space Agency have teamed up for the Deep Space Food Challenge, which aims to spur new ideas about how to feed astronauts on long voyages. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) just announced 18 winners in Phase 1 of the Deep Space Food Challenge, which aims to spur the development of new and potentially game-changing food technologies.

The selected ideas range from a universal food fabricator able to dehydrate plants and meats to a self-contained device that can create foods from insect cells. Each winner will receive $25,000. Together, the 18 teams will get $450,000, slightly less than the $500,000 NASA forecast in January.

Those 18 winners, which are listed on the challenge website, all hail from the United States. NASA and the CSA also picked 10 non-U.S. and non-Canadian international winners, who received recognition without monetary support. All 28 of the selected teams will be eligible to compete in a Phase 2 of the challenge, if that is funded.

In addition, the CSA will announce Canadian winners of the challenge at a later date, NASA officials said in a statement Wednesday (Oct. 20). CSA's planned three-phase competition will have a grand prize winner announced in 2024; interim cash prizes are planned for Phases 1 and 2, while finalists may receive a prize of up to $380,000 Canadian (roughly $308,000 USD).

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More details about the competition will air on NASA Television, the NASA app and the agency's website Nov. 9 at 11 a.m. EST (1500 GMT). Special guests during the broadcast will include retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, retired CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield and celebrity chefs Martha Stewart and Lynn Crawford.

"These types of food systems could offer benefits on our home planet," Robyn Gatens, director of the International Space Station Program at NASA and challenge judge, said in the agency statement. "Solutions from this challenge could enable new avenues for worldwide food production in resource-scarce regions and locations where disasters disrupt critical infrastructure."

Video: How NASA's Deep Space Food Challenge works

NASA and CSA jointly announced the Deep Space Food Challenge in January, asking for food production ideas that met metrics such as generating minimal waste, using few resources, and creating safe and nutritious astronaut food that future space crews will also enjoy. (CSA is one of many agencies working with NASA on the Artemis program to land humans on the moon and will fly an astronaut on the Artemis 2 moon-orbiting mission.)

"For the U.S. teams, NASA's judges grouped submissions based on the food they envisioned producing," NASA added in the statement. "Among the designs were systems that used ingredients to create ready-to-eat foods such as bread, as well as dehydrated powders that could be processed into more complex food products. Others involved cultivated plants and fungi or engineered or cultured food such as cultured meat cells."

The winning U.S. teams, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Astra Gastronomy of San Francisco
  • BeeHex of Columbus, Ohio
  • BigRedBites of Ithaca, New York
  • Biostromathic of Austin, Texas
  • Cosmic Eats of Cary, North Carolina
  • Deep Space Entomoculture of Somerville, Massachusetts
  • Far Out Foods of St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Hefvin of Bethesda, Maryland
  • Interstellar Lab of Los Angeles
  • Kemel Deltech USA of Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • Mission: Space Food of Mountain View, California
  • Nolux of Riverside, California
  • Project MIDGE of La Crescenta-Montrose, California
  • RADICLE-X of Brooklyn, New York
  • SIRONA NOMs of Golden, Colorado
  • Space Bread of Hawthorne, Florida
  • Space Lab Café of Boulder, Colorado
  • µBites of Carbondale, Illinois

The 10 international submissions NASA and CSA recognized are:

  • ALSEC Alimentos Secos SAS of Antioquia, Colombia
  • Ambar of Bucaramanga, Colombia
  • Electric Cow of Germany
  • Enigma of the Cosmos of Écully, France and Brunswick, Australia
  • JPWORKS SRL of Milan, Italy
  • KEETA of Bangkok, Thailand
  • LTCOP of Piracicaba, Brazil
  • Natufia X Edama of Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • Solar Foods of Lappeenranta, Finland
  • π of Ghaziabad, India

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.