Their task? To simulate what life on Mars might be like for humans -- barren terrain, clothing requirements, and all. Their specific task in all this was to focus on the food: to think about what culinary concoctions might be appropriate for the Mars colonists of the future.
To do this, the researchers -- selected by both the University of Hawaii and Cornell University and funded by NASA -- prepared meals from a pre-determined list of foods: foods that are dehydrated, preserved, un-perishable, and, for all that, generally unpalatable. It was essentially Iron Chef, with the mystery ingredient being Mars. The team's job was to make the food, somehow, enjoyable and interesting -- the better for Mars colonists to combat both the malnutrition and the food boredom that can come with long-haul trips to other planets. They did their cooking in the kitchen area of their two-story, Mars-appropriate dome.