Mysore: When India’s first crewed space-flight ‘Gaganyaan’ lifts off next year, commencing a new era of space exploration, the astronauts on-board will not only carry a selection of special foods developed by Mysuru-based Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) but also they can prevent food from being wasted. In developing indigenous technology to prevent food waste, the DFRL is promoting Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

‘Gaganyaan’ has been designed to carry three Indian astronauts to the low earth orbit — an orbit of 2,000 km or less — for a period of five to seven days. The DFRL, a unit of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has already readied the food to be consumed by astronauts and has sent them to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The menu will offer Indian astronauts — hand-picked fighter pilots from the Indian Air Force (IAF) who are at present undergoing training in Russia — a variety of options to suit their palate during the seven-day mission. They are being trained at the Yuri Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Centre at Star City near Moscow.

Their menu includes egg rolls, veg rolls, idli, vegetable pulav, chicken biryani, dal makhni, shahi paneer and chicken korma. Nutrition bars, powdered fruit juice, almonds and nuts and instant tea mix are a part of the food package along with moong dal halwa, sooji halwa and dried apricot. The eatables can be warmed using the food warmers on board the spacecraft.

After the food was developed, the challenge before DFRL was to prevent food waste in space. To tackle this, scientists have come up with patented food-waste pouch system. According to highly-placed sources, the food pouch would restrict the growth of microbes and prevent food from getting spoilt even in the space atmosphere.

The food will be put into specially designed packages from where moisture has been removed and can be eaten after filling the packets with water. The DFRL had to develop this technology as preserving Indian food in the outer space was tricky and there is no pre-existing technology for this.

It is a first-ever mission for India and had to be different from the technology used by Russian and American astronauts who consumed food like burgers and sandwiches that are popular in the Western world. The challenge for DFRL scientists here was to develop a technology to preserve the Indian food that had high moisture content when compared to burgers and sandwiches. To tackle the tricky situation, the DFRL has come up with the food waste pouch technology where a special compound has been developed that would restrict the growth of microbes. Prevention of microbe growth on food would prevent spoiling of the food.

DFRL sources said that they have focused on nutrient adequacy and wholesomeness of the food. Low fragmentation is equally critical in the zero-gravity environment and food will be packed in 100 grams to 200 grams packets that will ensure zero microbe standards.

The astronauts will eat three meals a day, with the diet adding up to 2,500 calories. “The idea is to give them balanced meals that are lightweight, low volume and easy to consume. Food kits include special straws for drinking water and instant coffee or tea, food warmers and waste restraining bags. Special containers — sippers — have also been developed to enable the astronauts to have liquids such as fruit juice and water as well.