The prototype “dinner on the moon” dishes were developed by using food materials that are expected to be available on the moon in 2040. (Takashi Sugimoto)

A full-course dinner on offer for a colony of humans on the moon sounds like a fantasy out of a 1950s science fiction novel.

However, Japan's space agency is working to put a menu together for Earth inhabitants of the moon in 2040.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and its partners said they have begun studying a food production system that would be a requisite for allowing humans to stay on Earth's satellite for extended periods.

The foodstuffs to be consumed on the lunar surface should be locally procured.

JAXA will work with 30 businesses and with universities to develop a mechanism that would use both food materials to be transported from Earth and waste and excreta discharged on the moon. There is believed to be water and ice on the lunar surface.

Members of the project have come up with seven prototype dishes using food materials that are expected to be available on the moon in 2040. They include a steak of meat that is cultured artificially from beef and chicken cells, a soup using algae, and an imitation sushi made from cell-cultured tuna and rice ingredients.

“We hope to spend a year working on a scenario before making a prototype production system and hopefully testing it in outer space,” said project representative Mizuki Komasa, who is growth manager with Realtech Fund, a venture capital fund.

A number of countries have plans for exploring the lunar surface, including a U.S.-led international program that involves building a new, moon-orbiting space station sometime around 2026.

In the private sector, ispace Inc., a Japanese space business venture, plans to land a probe on the moon, expected to be followed by construction of a lunar habitation zone, which would involve 1,000 people living on the moon in 2040.