You know that old axiom that an army travels on its stomach? It’s true for space travel, too.

If humans go out beyond Earth, they’ll need sustenance.

We figured that out pretty well for Moon missions and for Earth orbit, with freeze-dried food in pouches that astronauts can easily open up, add water to, heat and enjoy.

These packages typically last for up to a year, which is more than enough time for any of today’s astronauts.

But tomorrow’s astronauts may need more.

A mission to Mars, for example, would take at least nine months just to get there, not to mention the time on planet and the trip back.

Scientists at Washington State University are working on a way to sterilize and pack food that can last much longer. The layers of packaging they’re working with now may be able to handle 3-5 years on the shelf.

And no, they don’t have to wait until 2024 to test these out. There’s an incubator process they use to age the food more quickly, which takes like six to nine months. They then send the “aged” entrees to servicemembers to see whether they still taste good.

They’ve had the most success with macaroni and cheese, other meals will come later.

So if you’re an astronaut headed to Mars in the near term, I hope you like noodles.

As for those of us who aren’t astronauts, why should we care whether these tests work out? Because having a supply of shelf-stable mac and cheese will come in handy during the zombie apocalypse, of course.

Meanwhile in the town of Westford, Vermont, a man is protesting the local development review board by hosting a seven foot tall wooden sculpture… of a raised middle finger.

The irony here is that under the area’s zoning laws, it’s classified as public art, so it’s all perfectly legal.

Getting mac and cheese to Mars (Washington State University)

Westford resident gives town the middle finger—and there’s nothing anyone can do about it (Burlington Free Press)

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Photo by Tavallai via Flickr/Creative Commons