Have you heard? A company in Israel has invented a Star Trek replicator called the Genie that will put an end to MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) forever.
Unfortunately that isn’t true. At least not the part about the replicator. We are still nowhere near that technology just yet. But if White Innovation can get the Genie to market, they probably can get the lowly MRE into a museum next to C-rations.
The MRE was an invention of the US military in the 1970’s to produce self contained meals for eating in the field. They contain freeze dried and vacuum sealed cooked foods that can be cooked using a chemical reaction of the bag with water.
While the Genie is no Replicator, it takes the MRE concept and knocks it out of the park. The Genie is probably what the Department of Defense wanted to do 40 years ago.
What is the Genie?
According to the inventors, the Genie takes “pods” of freeze dried foods, mixes it with liquids and produces nutritious and delicious meals in 30 seconds using natural ingredients and no preservatives.
Depending on the ingredients, pods can last one to two years.
What does the Genie mean for space travel?
Food is expensive to transport. That is one reason why food inequality across the world exists. There are two reasons for this.
- Fresh food has a short shelf life
- Food is heavy
Fresh food has a short shelf life.
There is an old Simpson’s episode where the family goes shopping at Whole Foods and the entire purchase wilts away as soon as it is paid for. The clerk explains that because it doesn’t have any preservatives, it goes bad faster.
That, of course, was satire. But it holds a kernel of truth. For most of our history, mankind has been trying to find ways of preserving food to make it last longer. Drying, salting, pickling, fermenting, canning, refrigeration. The list goes on. The Genie is just another in a long line of food preservation method.
Food is heavy
Did you know that the human body is roughly two thirds water? So is a lot of food. And water is pretty heavy. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds. Dehydrating reduces the weight of food considerably. Yes, you then have to rehydrate it. And in space there isn’t an abundance of readily available water.
There is a lot of water in the solar system. Comets, a number of moons around Saturn. Apparently, even the crust of Mars is mostly water. But going in between those places takes time. Even when the EmDrive is produced and used for interstellar travel, Saturn will take 9 months.
But NASA already knows a fair amount of recycling water on space craft. Bring it in a big tank, re-hydrate the food, recycle the water. No need to bring the water twice.
NASA needs two things to make interplanetary exploration by humans possible. The first is a propulsion system capable of high speeds, low costs, and constant thrust. EmDrive research is working on that. The second is a way to keep the astronauts fed. This Genie device provides that.
Now all that is needed is the will to do so.