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Spam-fried noodles on Mars?

There are still many questions surrounding the possibility of a manned mission to Mars, but perhaps the most fundamental comes down to something everyone faces, everyday: what to eat? Well, how about Cajun jambalaya, Moroccan beef tangine, no-crust quiche muffins, Crater Crunch bars and fried noodles? Those were just a few of the recipes a crew of six researchers noshed on during a four-month Mars-mission simulation study.

The NASA-funded study into potential food options for a mission to Mars is wrapping up Tuesday. During their four months in the barren lava field on the northern slope of the Mauna Loa volcano, the researchers have been dining on a variety of dehydrated and freeze-dried meat and produce, including jambalaya made with the Spam.

Led by Cornell University and the University of Hawaii, the goal of the study was to expand on current outer-space dining options so that astronauts on a Mars mission could avoid malnourishment or food boredom.

The researchers asked the public to send in recipe ideas, with one catch: all of the ingredients had to be nonperishable. This poses a culinary and health challenge, as team commander Angelo Vermeulen explained on the study's website, because most nonperishable foods are highly processed and low in fiber. Recipes came in from around the world, and the crew posted photos of their favorites throughout the study.

The six-member crew of Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, which was selected through an open application process in late 2012, included a science journalist and a Puerto Rican educator. Tuesday will be their first day outside of the dome without wearing a spacesuit. They've requested a day on the beach before heading back to the real world.

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