NASA will pay $500,000 to whoever can figure out how to grow fresh food in space

Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin holds a watermelon

Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin holds a watermelon
Photo: MAXIM SHIPENKOV / Stringer (Getty Images)

Being an astronaut sounds really stressful. You have to fly the spacecraft straight so you don’t run into space junk, you have to make sure a hostile alien doesn’t burst through your torso, and you have to eat all kinds of weird, freeze-dried meals. Turns out those boring space meals take a toll—which is why NASA is prepared to dish out up to $500,000 for a good idea that might allow astronauts to cultivate and eat fresh food in space during long-term space missions.

UPI reports that NASA and the Canadian Space Agency have teamed up for the Deep Space Food Challenge, during which participants can win prize money for their ideas surrounding fresh food transport, production, and distribution in space. You can find all of the details on the Deep Space Food Challenge website, including the challenge timeline. (Hint: Phase I registration closes May 28, with submissions due July 30.) According to the challenge website, up to 20 top-scoring U.S. teams will receive $25,000 each from NASA before they compete in Phase 2. The website is unclear about the prize for winning Phase 2, but it does specify “up to $500,000.” Also, some pretty great bragging rights.

Before you get too excited, remember that any given spacecraft will have minimal resources, space, and utilities to prepare a tasty meal. Astronauts also don’t have a lot of time to grow or prepare their own food. Finally, NASA has tried and failed to cultivate food in space several times, including greens, radishes, and various nutrients grown with yeast. Think you’re up to the task? Teams from the U.S., Canada, and beyond can register online now. If you win, your idea might boldly go where no salad has gone before.

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