US high school cooking teams vie to make meals fit for a Nasa astronaut

Ten teams of US high school students have competed to create a meal that is truly out of this world.

The cooking teams took part in the final of the 2015-2016 Nasa HUNCH Culinary Challenge at the Space Center Houston, where the winning team will be chosen to have their dish served to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

The Culinary Challenge is a component of the Nasa HUNCH, or High School Students United with Nasa to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program.

The ten cooking teams are made up of high school students from Texas, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey and Virginia.

Students from New Horizon School compete in the Nasa HUNCH Space recipes - image courtesy of Nasa.
Students from New Horizon School compete in the Nasa HUNCH Space recipes – image courtesy of Nasa.

The teams were chosen after a nationwide search for finalists to have a chance to have their delicious and nutritious meal served for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

The teams prepared entrees for taste-testing and evaluation, with the winning meal to be prepared and packaged for future delivery and consumption on the International Space Station.

The ten teams prepared their potential winning meal this week at the Space Center Houston, with the winners to be announced next week as the competition also features an essay portion which factors into the score beyond the cook off.

Teams in this year’s Nasa HUNCH Culinary Challenge had to develop a vegetable entrée and the dish had to meet a strict set of nutritional guidelines; including being between 300-500 calories, contain 300mg or less of sodium per serving, 8 grams of sugar or less per serving, 3 grams of fibre or more per serving with the food having to process well for flight and for use in microgravity.

Last year’s Nasa HUNCH winner

The winning dish of last year’s inaugural Nasa HUNCH Culinary Challenge was a rice and beans entrée cooked up by Phoebus High School in Hampton, Virginia.

Their winning dish of Jamaican rice and beans with coconut milk was carried up into space by the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft which launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 8.

Their rice and beans dish will serve as a nutritious dish for the astronauts of the International Space Station.

The recipe also earned the Phoebus High School team a trip to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where they cooked for a panel of six astronauts at the Space Food Systems Laboratory.

The Culinary Challenge incorporates the arts with science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM, and engages students as they learn about food science and processing by developing new, tasty recipes that are still able to meet the nutritional, textural and flavour standards needed to keep astronauts happy and healthy while on the International Space Station.

The winning team will play a vital part in helping their astronauts with their daily duties and everyday life back on Earth, as meals consumed by the International Space Station’s astronauts is a vital element in exercise and nutrition plans that help minimize bone and muscle density loss so that they can resume normal life on Earth after spending up to a year without gravity.