OUT OF THE WORLD IDLIS Anil Dutt Semwal, DFRL scientist, has created these space-ready Idlis, with Sambar Powder and Coconut Chutney dust as accompaniments, energy-filled nuggets

We may not yet know who will eventually ride to space on the first Indian human mission in 2022, but some of the desi bites they may eat during those five days are already here, courtesy the Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL).

Roti or flat wheat rolls, two-minute Idli-Sambar, ready-to-eat courses made of rice, lentils and millets, khichdi, beaten rice delicacies, energy-filled nuggets, munches, bars, beet, mango and pineapple sips that don't spill in the space capsule, even specially toasted potato chips await the government’s green signal to travel 400 km above the ground.

DFRL, Mysore, the food research centre of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), says it is geared to feed Indian astronauts with tasty ready-to-eats and easy-to-makes.

Its officials said they have also developed starch-based edible plates, cups and spoons that don’t add to the trash in space travel, or leave tell-tale traces of moving troops.
‘All products’

“We have all necessary technologies and products. We just need the government’s [specifications],” said DFRL Associate Director A.D. Semwal, during the first Army conference on ‘Empowering Field Army Through Food Technology’ here on Wednesday.

Space, he said, will be the lab’s new big challenge after helping soldiers of the Army, Navy and Air Force nutritionally conquer harsh, sub-zero, hot, hilly, undersea or flying conditions.

Last month, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was tasked with sending out a Human Space Flight in the next four years.

Space foods — just as those meant for pilots, sailors or ground troops — should keep astronauts going physically and mentally over many days in alien conditions. They must keep hunger, depression, infections and fatigue at bay, and fortify astronauts with nourishment, high energy, alertness and immunity to diseases. Combating gravity-related disorientation and motion sickness while keeping bodily functions normal are other criteria, the official said.

Lieutenant General Vipan Gupta, Commandant Army Service Corps Centre and College, said that in harsh terrains and combat situations, soldiers’ foods should be their medicine. “We are trying to figure out what dietary supplements in terms of nutraceuticals, nano, functional and super foods [developed and in the market] can be added to the diet of soldiers,” he said.