Not just functional, nutritious, but also experiential: Designing eating experiences for space travel

Marianna Obrist, Y Tu, L Yao, C Velasco
in IAC 2018 Conference, Conference paper (text)


Copyright © 2018 by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). In light of short- and long-term space travels to the Moon and Mars, it is essential to design nutritious foods, but also to make eating an enjoyable experience. To date, though, most research on space food design emphasizes the functional and nutritional aspects of food, but there are no systematic studies that focus is on the human experience of eating in space. We know however that food has a multi-dimensional and multisensorial role in societies and that sensory, hedonic, and social features of eating and food design should not be underestimated. We present, how research in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) can provide a user-centered design approach to co-create innovative ideas around the future of food and eating in space, balancing functional and experiential factors. Based on our research and inspired by advances in human food-interaction design, we developed three design concepts that integrate and tackle four crucial challenges for 'Eating in Space': to be functional, sensorial, emotional, and social. Moreover, we consider the environmental/atmospheric perspective in our design concepts. We can particularly capitalize on recent technological advances around digital fabrication, food 3D printing technology, and virtual and augmented reality to enable the design and integration of multisensory eating experiences. We also highlight that in future space travels, the target users will diversify. Thinking about future target users, we need to look at astronauts (current users, paid to do the job) but also beyond and consider paying customers (non-astronauts) who will be able to book a space holiday to the Moon or Mars. To create the right conditions for space travelling and to satisfy those users, we need to innovate beyond the initial excitement of designing an 'eating like an astronaut' experience and design for experiences beyond the novelty of the situation. To do so we can draw upon prior HCI research in human food-interaction design and build on insights from food science and multisensory research, particularly research that has shown that the atmospheres where we eat and drink and their multisensory components can be crucial for an enjoyable food experience.