American space food is about to get a reboot, writes Fast Co. Design. Thanks to a grant from NASA, a research team led by Jean Hunter of Cornell University—with help from the University of Hawaii at Manoa—might just change the way astronauts eat.

The mission: Find out how space food can be improved to deliver the best flavor and health benefits. It turns out that astronauts, like their fellow Earthlings, get bummed out by bland and repetitive food. Hunter’s task is to figure out strategies to inject some fun and flavor into space-ship menus, with the goal being to boost morale and hopefully reduce the very real risk of malnutrition in a micogravity environment, where the condition can be intensified.

Starting early next year, six volunteers will eat like they’re living on Mars (nothing but dehydrated foods) for four months, while Hunter and her team supervise them at the HI-SEAS lab in Hawaii. Among the theories to be tested is one that dates back to pre-space travel times: Hunter believes that food preparation “may have actually contributed to [the] survival” of early American pioneers, not least because they were more invested in what they were eating. She’ll have the volunteers to learn how to ‘cook’ with dehydrated ingredients, making dishes with the resources at hand.

So, what’s to become of that infamous astronaut ice cream? According to Hunter, if the subjects still want it, they’ll have to get to work:

“If our people wanted to make ice cream, they’d start with dried milk, maybe some hydrolyzed milk fat, or they’d break out one of their very few cans of sweetened condensed milk, and they’d figure out how to make that into ice cream mix, then they’d have to freeze it in a bag inside of a bag of ice and salt.”

[via Fast Co.Design]