Indian scientists have been tasked with tackling a mission-critical part of their country's plan to get a man into orbit by 2015: Just how to cook up a decent space curry.
According to the Times, military boffins from the Defence Food Research Laboratory face considerable culinary challenges in presenting traditional dishes suitable for zero-grav consumption. The lab's director, A. S. Bawa, told the paper the fundamental problem was that spicy nosh "can be hard to digest in zero gravity".
He said: “Curry tends to be spicy, high in fat content and uses many ingredients; all these factors present significant challenges. We cannot afford the stomach of an astronaut to be strained.”
Accordingly, the scientists have to date focused on mild dishes, but are ready and willing to consider just how the dosa - a "crispy rice pancake that is fried, folded and often stuffed with a spicy potato filling" - might be made available in a form other than "rehydrated gloop", as the Times puts it.
Bawa said: “Developing a dosa for space? It’s never been done before . . . fried bhajis? Very challenging - we can use only minimal oil. But if the mission demands it, we are ready to look into it."
The process of creating the space curry is likely to incur a hefty bill. South Korea’s first astronaut, Yi So-yeon, last year visited the International Space Station suitably supplied with kimchi, a national delicacy of fermented cabbage. It cost the country several years' work and millions of dollars, the Times notes.
A cheaper option for the Indian space programme might be to contact Pot Noodle, which recently developed a doner kebab-flavoured version of the popular and nutritious snack. We suspect the company's chefs could boil up an onion bhaji variant within a couple of weeks. ®
We can't help but wonder what dishes would be on a British space programme menu, but it's likely that the cost of cooking up space-friendly lager, oven chips, microwaveable mini-pizzas and spag bol would run to billions.