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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 December 2005, 13:39 GMT
Space food a la carte
By Caroline Wyatt
BBC News, Paris

Launch of the Ariane 5-ECA (Esa/CNES/ARIANESPACE-S. CORVAJA)
The researchers are looking at growing foodstuffs on space missions

A leading French chef has been asked to help create space food for astronauts on long-term voyages in space.

Alain Ducasse already has several Michelin stars, but now he is determined to conquer diners further afield.

France may be suffering from a period of gloomy introspection, but when it comes to food, there is no false modesty: this nation still believes it is the best in the world.

And now, perhaps, beyond. Mr Ducasse's food academy has been asked by the European Space Agency (Esa) to help create a menu for Europe's astronauts that will not just nourish their bodies, but also their spirits - helping men and women on long-term missions, for example to Mars, to survive for 1,000 days in space.

Man cannot live on bread alone, says the space agency, so a bit of sun-dried tomato and soya rice pudding wouldn't go amiss.

The food researchers are focusing on eight or nine main ingredients, including onions, potatoes, rice, lettuce and spinach, which could be grown aboard a spacecraft, saving on storage space for the journey.

The chefs working on the project say the idea is to create a meal that reminds the astronauts of home - while remaining a menu that could be described as out of this world.

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