Washington: Astronauts on the first manned mission to Mars are considering to grow their own food in a hi-tech 'kitchen garden' onboard their spaceship, according to NASA.
Supplying enough food for a round trip to the Red Planet is one of the greatest challenges facing mission planners. Now the US space agency claims the astronomers could tend 'kitchen gardens' of salad and vegetables to cater to their daily diet.
NASA expects to launch its first manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.
Dr Maya Cooper of NASA's Space Food Systems Laboratory in Houston, Texas, said a five-year mission to Mars would require almost 3,175 kilogrammes of food per person.
"That's a clear impediment to a lot of mission scenarios. We need new approaches. Right now we're looking at possibility of implementing a bioregenerative system that would involve growing crops in space and possibly shipping some bulk commodities to a Mars habitat as well.
"This scenario involves much more food processing and meal preparation than the current food system developed for the space shuttles and the International Space Station," the media quoted her as telling the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver.
According to the NASA experts, the crops would not only give crews healthy food to eat during the long journey to the red planet, but would also improve the atmosphere onboard by producing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide.
In addition, the plants suggested would require minimal tending and not take up much room on spacecraft. The 10 "prime candidates" are lettuce, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, spring onions, radishes, peppers, strawberries, herbs and cabbage.
Unmanned spacecraft full of supplies including long- lasting food could also be sent to Mars before astronauts set off, so they would have something to eat when they arrived.