[ix] The University of South Florida is once again honored to be the host of a Space Food Technology Conference sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Academy of Sciences. In the years intervening from the first conference in 1964 to the present one in 1969, a wealth of practical space-food utilization experience has been accumulated through the NASA Manned Space Flight Program. It is therefore fitting and appropriate to bring the focus of the accumulated operational experience and advanced technology development to bear on the problems of improvement of nutritional aspects for future manned space missions.
From a review of the spectrum and depth of the technical papers presented at this conference, l am confident that this conference report will provide a valuable springboard for new and unique advanced food research and technology studies.
[xi] There have been remarkable strides in the general field of food technology in the last several decades. Any housewife can attest to this. It now is possible to serve a meal any day of the year, with very little effort, which is quite nourishing and which contains many foods that may rightfully be referred to as gourmet fare. Our better restaurants, even those in the center of our country, now regularly offer wines from both American and French vineyards, lobsters which 24 hours earlier were swimming in the cold waters off the coast of Maine, fruit fresh from the citrus groves of Florida, and trout direct from the lakes of the northwest states. This bill of fare, of course, is made possible by our excellent air transportation system.
Other areas of progress are equally noteworthy. For instance, many of our airlines are pioneering in the development and use of airborne microwave ovens. This technique represents a significant step forward in food preparation. Although this topic will be discussed later in the program, I would like at this time to compliment the airline industry and its suppliers for the advances they have made in the rapid preparation and dispensing of large volumes of food. Inasmuch as we in NASA are as concerned with aeronautics as with space activities, I look forward to working closely with airline representatives as we strive for additional improvements in food preparation both in the atmosphere and in space.
We have briefly surveyed recent progress in the development of food technology and found it to be quite good, so let us now examine the applicability of this technology to the needs of our space program. First, of course, are the requirements of the Apollo program. It appears that the needs of this program are being adequately met. There is no evidence of any nutritional problem and techniques for in-flight feeding seem to be successful. Freeze-dehydrated, rehydratable, and bite-sized foods have generally been used in these missions; however, in one instance a moist food which was eaten with a spoon was provided. This one attempt proved to be successful even under zero-G conditions and was considered by the astronauts involved to be one of the highlights of the in-flight feeding program to date.
In general, astronauts have accepted the techniques now being used for in-flight feeding and the type of food being provided. They recognized the constraints under which food must be stored and dispensed. However, a system that is perfectly tolerable on a 2-week mission may be quite intolerable on a mission lasting a number of months.
[xii] In a recent test of life-support components conducted by the McDonnell-Douglas Co., four men were kept in a closed cabin for 60 days. Although the primary purpose of this experiment was to test closed-loop oxygen and water systems, the experiment also afforded insight into the palatability of astronaut-type food over an extended period. It was found, as one would predict, that the quality as well as the appearance of food becomes increasingly important as time passes. A periodic change in type of food had a noticeably positive effect on the morale of the subjects.
As a final comment on the state of the art in our space-food program, I would like to quote directly from the closing remarks of the chairmen, Dr. C. O. Chichester, at a 1964 conference here at the University of South Florida "At the moment it appears we have no clear-cut idea of how we are going to feed people for long space flights. As the flights become longer provision will have to be made; many methods have been suggested for solving the problem and thus we have a multiple pathway of investigation. The consensus seems to be that these methods must be investigated in a parallel fashion since we do not have the criteria nor do we have the knowledge at the present time to make any choice. " I recognize that progress has been made since 1964, but I do feel that these remarks in some measure remain appropriate today.
In NASA we use the term "pacing technology" to denote a technological area which represents a limiting factor in the progress of a particular program. In the early days of NASA, booster power was a pacing technology. On October 4, 1957, the Russians orbited Sputnik I with a payload of 184 lb. By 1958 they were able to place into orbit a payload of 2926 lb. The United States, on the other hand, placed an initial payload of 31 lb into orbit on January 31, 1958. It we, quickly determined that, in our attempts to match or to exceed Russian progress in the exploration of space, booster power was a pacing technology. This situation prevailed until November 9, 1967, when the first Saturn V booster rocket was launched successfully. The triumph over booster power was achieved at tremendous cost, with a tremendous investment in facilities, and ( I consider this to be possibly the most important characteristic of the program) with tremendous personal dedication on the part of the individuals involved. Now, for the first time, the question of payload weight can be handled in proper perspective in concert with other mission variables.
The important questions concerning long-duration missions no longer focus as directly on rocket technology as was once the case. Now it appears that the critical problems are likely to be the human-oriented problems. The problem of providing food, may in fact, represent a pacing technology. On this basis, our progress toward extended lunar exploration and interplanetary flight may be no faster than our progress with the problems of advanced food technology.
If we now consider the providing of food to be a pacing technology, what are the implications for establishing an appropriate research program ? First, it is essential that long-range research goals be stated. Our commitment to a lunar landing in this decade in essence dictates the research and development requirements for booster power. The goals for a food technology program will not be as easily achieved as were previous goals but must be delineated nonetheless. Second, the requirements of an appropriate research program should be considered. The level of requisite funding [xiii] the necessary facilities, and the required personnel should be defined. In brief, a level of effort must be described which is appropriate for the achievement of the research goals. This procedure is precisely that of the Saturn V program which led to the development of such facilities as Michoud Operations.
In working toward the prescribed goals of an advanced food technology program, it will be necessary to make certain adjustments in our philosophy of research. One important change will involve greatly increased attention to the socio-psychological variables related to food intake. I am sure everyone in attendance today recognizes that over long periods of time these variables could become of greater importance than the actual nutritional structure of the food.
Now let us assess the benefits which will accrue from a concerted program to advance the technology of food provisioning. The first benefit is obvious. NASA will be able to provide sustenance for astronauts on long-duration missions which will do much to ensure that they return in a healthy condition and in good spirits. This is no mean feat and is one which Justifies an extensive research and development program. Another benefit would be assistance in the field of advanced technology for airline feeding. As a third benefit, there will be a direct economic return to our nation. New food processing techniques will create additional employment opportunities. Two of the later sessions in this conference will touch on this topic. The creation of new industries is an important economic result of technological advances.
Finally, there will be a direct personal benefit to the world, and this may well be the most important consequence of extended research in food processing. In a recent paper, Dr. Wernher von Braun stated that "We must adopt a more hard-headed attitude and consider not only whether a space project is technologically possible, but whether it has promise of contributing to the economy or the strength of the country. " The contribution of our food processing research should be significant.
In 1955 the arable land per person in the world was generally agreed to be about 1-1/4 acre. By the year 2000 AD it is estimated that this acreage will decrease to a little more than 1/2 acre per person. This trend is causing considerable concern among world leaders. Inasmuch as food productivity is not evenly distributed over the world, the possibilities of serious famine in certain areas is quite real within the foreseeable future. Any increase in our understanding of ways to produce, prepare, store, and distribute food will be of tremendous importance for all nations.
I have attempted to stress the direct importance of this conference to NASA and to long-duration space missions under consideration for the future. At the moment, we consider the area of food preparation and in-flight feeding to be a pacing technology for future manned spaceflight. We also recognize that, in solving the problems in this field, you who are here today will make a contribution not only to NASA and the airlines but also to the economy of the United States and ultimately to the well-being of all nations.