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High Schoolers Develop Flavor Strips for Astronauts

In Life by Wendy Michaels , on Monday, April 09, 2012, 4:21 AM (PDT)
nasa
High school students invent flavor strips for NASA
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Tang? Schmang. High School Students Invent Flavor Strips for NASA

Astronaut food is about to get a little more interesting than dehydrated peas would leave you to believe.

Determined to help improve astronauts' menues, high school students at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics have developed flavor strips to spice up astronaut's meals.

The "Stellar Strips" have the flavors of condiments, guaranteed to make the less-than-exciting food offerings in space a little more out of this world.

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NASA space food has historically been freeze-dried powder and meals in tubes. Not exactly inspired.

Adding to this, astronauts lose some sense of taste when subjected to microgravity -- their sinuses clog, dulling their taste sensations.

The Stellar Strips offer up some more interesting options, including salt, pepper, Mexican, Asian, sweet, spicy or barbeque flavors -- and it's completely mess-free.

Myra Halpin, a chemistry and research instructor who mentored the students noted, "In a microgravity environment, you can't just use a salt and pepper shaker. One astronaut had written about how getting hot sauce on food was a challenge -- he described spinning himself around to get the hot sauce out of the bottle."

How do the flavor strips work? It's similar to the Listerine breath freshener that's contained on a strip that melts in your mouth.

The high school juniors developed the strips for the Spirit of Innovation Challenge hosted by the Conrad Foundation and backed by NASA and other government agencies.

They used rice starch pieces from Vietnamese spring roll wrappings for their prototype, finding that the starch held the flavors and as well as nutrients.

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Halpin shared one judges' feedback about the strips: "One of the judges commented that they were concerned putting it under your tongue might be a problem, but putting it between your teeth and gums like old-fashioned snuff might be a better idea."

The students are hoping to get their Stellar Strips on a test flight in 2015.

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