Food For Thought

Target Audience
  • Students
Hosting Center(s)
  • Armstrong Flight Research Center
Subject Category
  • Math
Unit Correlation
  • Exploring Space
Grade Level
  • 04
  • 05
  • 06
Minimum Delivery Time
  • 050 min(s)
Maximum Connection Time
  • 060 min(s)

Event Focus

How do NASA nutritionist’s record, analyze, and interpret data to prepare astronaut food for a mission to Mars?



This module is appropriate for video conference AND web conference presentation.

Someday, humans will travel to the planet Mars or near Earth Asteroids. Their journey will be the most ambitious space mission ever. Going to Mars will be far more challenging than going to the Moon. In order to feed a crew of four for the six – nine month trip every bit of food needed will have to be packed onboard. No matter how desperate the crews become in transit, they can’t send out for a pizza delivery. In this module students will analyze food contamination, determine serving sizes based on food labels and recommended serving per astronaut, and calculate the percent change between estimated and recommended serving sizes.


Instructional Objectives



Learners will identify how microbial contamination of food relates to preparing food for a seven-month space flight.


Learners will estimate serving size and calculate the percent of change between estimated and recommended serving size of different foods.


Learners will complete a data table and generate a report based on learned information.


Learners will present their data via photos, video, PowerPoint, etc.


Learners will discuss results and explain their methods for packaging food accurately and safely.


Sequence of Events


Pre-Conference Activities

Among the thousands of questions that need to be answered before astronauts travel to distant planets and asteroids are questions related to the astronauts themselves. How much food will they need and what foods can they take? Fortunately, both water and air can be recycled; where food is another matter. Every bit of food needed will have to be packed on board. Through this series of lessons, your students will gain a better understanding of what it takes to prepare and package food for a long space voyage.

Click on the links below to download the following activity and videos to use with your class as pre-conference activities:

•     Activity – “Always Wash Your End Effector”     

•     Video 1 – Nutrition on the Space Station     

•     Video 2 – Eating on the Space Station     


Videoconference Activities

During the event, students will estimate serving sizes of different foods and compare the student's estimates to serving size information provided on “Nutrition Facts” food labels. 

For the program you will need the following materials: Three food items e.g. loose M & Ms, dry breakfast cereal, popped popcorn, calculators, paper plates, 2 cup measuring cup and optional scalesThe teacher may Substitute Food Items in case of food allergies. If you do not have scales or measuring cups, you can have students count the individual items.  You will also need to divide your students into small groups.

Additionally, they will calculate the percent of change between their estimated serving size and the recommended serving size. The coordinator will inquire about student’s understanding of “What will it takes to prepare and package food for a long space voyage?”

Click on the links below to download the following activity and videos to use with your class:


Additional Sources

Post-Conference Activities

Engage students in discussions regarding which foods should be taken to Mars. Use the following activities to:

  • Construct and use calorimeters to measure the kilo-calories (energy) contained in several food samples.
  • Learn and practice safety procedures during their testing.

Click the following links to access the activity and related video:



Science Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • develop understandings about scientific inquiry

Science Content Standard C: Life Science

  • Structure and function of living organisms
  • Regulation and behavior

Common Core Mathematics Content Standard: Numbers and Operations

  • Perform operations with multi-digit whole numbers and with decimals to hundredths
  • Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates

Common Core Mathematics Content Standard: Operations and Algebraic Thinking

  • Write and interpret numerical expressions
  • Analyze patterns and relationships

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Page Last Updated: November 5th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator