NASA's proposal to feed astronauts on deep-space missions: poop paste

Photo: James Whitaker/Getty Images
Photo: James Whitaker/Getty Images

Any plans for Earth humans to explore Mars and beyond must factor in the vexing and complicated issue of food and water consumption. When every ounce on that space vehicle counts, how can astronauts supply enough sustenance for a multi-year mission? (My solution: 3,000 packs of astronaut ice cream.)


So it comes as no surprise—even if the thought makes you dry heave over your keyboard—that repurposing human waste has come up for discussion. In a NASA-funded research project from at Penn State University, scientists have proposed recycling methane gas generated from human waste to produce a scrumptious-sounding “protein- and lipid-rich biomass that can be directly consumed.”

USA Today has translated the findings to a more-readable format, which suggests the culture grown from methane—called Methylococus capsulatas—could be used to produce a food paste substance similar to what’s being used as animal feed. The composition of this paste: 52 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 100 percent bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbllllllllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Kevin Pang was the founding editor of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace.

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My solution: 3,000 packs of astronaut ice cream.

If I was on that mission, and at the first meal discovered this?

I would immediately “space” myself.

If you’ve never had astronaut ice cream—and you probably haven’t—it has a texture like styrofoam and tastes like chalk. That’s not an exaggeration. Also: it’s so foul, I’ve heard that it’s never actually been included on any actual mission.