Space food is a variety of food products, specially created and processed for consumption by astronauts in outer space. The food has specific requirements of providing balanced nutrition for individuals working in space, while being easy and safe to store, prepare and consume in the machinery-filled low gravity environments of manned spacecraft. In recent years, space food has been used by various nations engaging on space programs as a way to share and show off their cultural identity and facilitate intercultural communication.
- 1 Early history
- 2 Modern
- 3 Processing
- 4 Packaging
- 5 Types
- 6 Consumer derivatives
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
For lunch Gagarin ate three 160 g toothpaste-type tubes, two servings of puréed meat and one of chocolate sauce.
One of John Glenn's many tasks, as the first American to orbit Earth in 1962, was to experiment with eating in weightless conditions. Some experts had been concerned that weightlessness would impair swallowing. Glenn experienced no difficulties and it was determined that microgravity did not affect the natural swallowing process, which is enabled by the peristalsis of the esophagus.
Project Mercury (1959-1963)
Astronauts in later Mercury missions disliked the food that was provided. They ate bite-sized cubes, freeze-dried powders, and tubes of semiliquids. The astronauts found it unappetizing, experienced difficulties in rehydrating the freeze-dried foods, and did not like having to squeeze tubes or collect crumbs. Prior to the mission, the astronauts were also fed low residual launch-day breakfasts, to reduce the chances that they would defecate in flight.
Project Gemini (1965-1966)
Several of the food issues from the Mercury missions were addressed for the later Gemini missions. Tubes (often heavier than the foods they contained) were abandoned. Gelatin coatings helped to prevent bite-sized cubes from crumbling. Simpler rehydration methods were developed. The menus also expanded to include items such as shrimp cocktail, chicken and vegetables, toast squares, butterscotch pudding, and apple juice.
Mission Commander Gus Grissom of Gemini III loved corned beef sandwiches, so Pilot John Young sneaked one aboard the spacecraft. Though he did enjoy it, the sandwich began to crumble while Grissom ate, prompting him to put it away. The astronauts suffered a mild rebuke from NASA for the act since the snack was not among NASA's list of approved food items. A congressional hearing was called to urge the NASA deputy administrator, George Mueller, to ensure that only man-rated food be brought along on future missions.
Apollo program (1968-1975)
The variety of food options continued to expand for the Apollo missions. The new availability of hot water made rehydrating freeze-dried foods simpler, and produced a more appetizing result. The "spoon-bowl" allowed more normal eating practices. Food could be kept in special plastic zip-closure containers, and its moisture allowed it to stick to a spoon.
Larger living areas on the Skylab space station allowed for an on-board refrigerator and freezer, which allowed perishable and frozen items to be stored and made the microgravity the primary obstacle.:142–144 When Skylab's solar panels were damaged during its launch and the station had to rely on minimal power from the Apollo Telescope Mount until Skylab 2 crewmembers performed repairs, the refrigerator and freezer were among the systems that Mission Control kept operational.
Menus included items such as processed meat products and ice cream. A dining room table and chairs, fastened to the floor and fitted with foot and thigh restraints, allowed for a more normal eating experience. The trays used could warm the food, and had magnets to hold eating utensils and scissors to open food containers.:142–144:29 The crews found the food to be better than Apollo's but still mediocre due, in part, to it tasting different in space from on Earth.:292–293,308 They liked the frozen foods the best, and found they desired spicy foods:130 due to head congestion from weightlessness dulling their senses of taste and smell.:292–293,308 Weightlessness also complicated both eating and cleaning up; crews spent up to 90 minutes a day on housekeeping.
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (1975)
The astronauts of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project received samples of Soviet space food when the combined crew dined together. Among the foods provided by Soyuz 19 were canned beef tongue, packaged Riga bread, and tubes of borscht and caviar. The borscht was labeled "vodka".
Today, fruits and vegetables that can be safely stored at room temperature are eaten on space flights. Astronauts also have a greater variety of main courses to choose from, and many request personalized menus from lists of available foods including items like fruit salad and spaghetti. Astronauts sometimes request beef jerky for flights, as it is lightweight, nutritious, and can be consumed in orbit without packaging or other changes.
- Chinese: In October 2003, the People's Republic of China commenced their first manned space flight. The astronaut, Yang Liwei, brought along with him and ate specially processed yuxiang pork (鱼香肉丝), Kung Pao chicken (宫保鸡丁), and Eight Treasures rice (simp: 八宝饭; trad: 八寶飯), along with Chinese herbal tea. Food made for this flight and the subsequent manned flight in 2007 has been commercialized for sale to the mass market.
- Japanese: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have developed traditional Japanese foods and drinks such as matcha, yokan, ramen, sushi, soups, rice with ume for consumption in orbit. The foods have been produced in collaboration with Japanese food companies such as Ajinomoto, Meiji Dairies, and Nissin Foods.
- Korean: In April 2008, South Korea’s first astronaut, Yi So-yeon, was a crew member on the International Space Station and brought a special version of Korea's national dish, kimchi. It took three research institutes several years and millions of dollars to create a version of the fermented cabbage dish that was suitable for space travel.
- Russian: On the ISS the Russian crew has a selection of over 300 dishes. An example daily menu can be:
- Breakfast: curds and nuts, mashed potatoes with nuts, apple-quince chip sticks, sugarless coffee and vitamins.
- Lunch: jellied pike perch, borsch with meat, goulash with buckwheat, bread, black currant juice, sugarless tea.
- Supper: rice and meat, broccoli and cheese, nuts, tea with sugar.
- Second supper: dried beef, cashew nuts, peaches, grape juice.
- Swedish: Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang was not allowed to bring reindeer jerky with him on board a shuttle mission as it was unthinkable for the Americans so soon before Christmas. He had to go with moose instead.
NASA's Advanced Food Technology Project (AFT) is currently researching the risk of an inadequate food system for long-duration space exploration missions.
Designing food for consumption in space is difficult. Foods must meet a number of criteria to be considered fit for space. First, the food must be physiologically appropriate, specifically, it must be nutritious, easily digestible, and palatable. Second, the food must be engineered for consumption in a zero gravity environment. As such, the food should be light, well packaged, quick to serve, and easy to clean up (foods that tend to leave crumbs, for example, are ill-suited for space). Finally, foods must require a minimum of energy expenditure throughout their use, i.e., they should store well, open easily, and leave little waste behind.
Carbonated drinks have been tried in space, but are not favored due to changes in belching caused by microgravity; without gravity to separate the liquid and gas in the stomach, burping results in a kind of vomiting called "wet burping". Coca-Cola and Pepsi were first carried on STS-51-F in 1985. Coca-Cola has flown on subsequent missions in a specially designed dispenser that utilizes BioServe Space Technologies hardware used for biochemical experiments. Space Station Mir carried cans of Pepsi in 1996.
Beer has also been developed that counteracts the reduction of taste and smell reception in space and reduces the possibility of wet burps in microgravity. Produced by Vostok 4-Pines Stout, a parabolic flight experiment validated that the reduced carbonation recipe met the criteria intended for space. Barley harvested from that grown for several generations in space has also been brought back to earth to produce beer. While not a space food (it used the same high carbonation 'Earth' recipe), the study did demonstrate that ingredients grown in space are safe for production.
Packaging for space food serves the primary purposes of preserving and containing the food. The packaging, however, must also be light-weight, easy to dispose, and useful in the preparation of the food for consumption. The packaging also includes a bar-coded label, which allows for the tracking of an astronaut's diet. The labels also specify the food's preparation instructions in both English and Russian.
Many foods from the Russian space program are packaged in cans and tins. These are heated through electro-resistive (ohmic) methods, opened with a can-opener, and the food inside consumed directly. Russian soups are hydrated and consumed directly from their packages.
NASA space foods are packaged in retort pouches or employ freeze drying. They are also packaged in sealed containers which fit into trays to keep them in place. The trays include straps on the underside, allowing astronauts to attach the tray to an anchor point such as their legs or a wall surface and include clips for retaining a beverage pouch or utensils in the microgravity environment.
- Beverages (B) - Freeze dried drink mixes (coffee or tea) or flavored drinks (lemonade or orange drink) are provided in vacuum sealed beverage pouches. Coffee and tea may have powdered cream and/or sugar added depending on personal taste preferences. Empty beverage pouches are provided for drinking water.
- Fresh Foods (FF)- Fresh fruit, vegetables and tortillas delivered by resupply missions. These foods spoil quickly and need to be eaten within the first two days of flight to prevent spoilage. These foods are provided as psychological support.
- Irradiated (I) Meat - Beef steak that is sterilized with ionizing radiation to keep the food from spoiling. NASA has special dispensation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use this type of food sterilization.
- Intermediate Moisture (IM) - Foods that have some moisture but not enough to cause immediate spoilage.
- Natural Form (NF) - Commercially available, shelf-stable foods such as nuts, cookies and granola bars that are ready to eat.
- Rehydratable (R) Foods - Foods that have been dehydrated by various technologies (such as drying with heat, osmotic drying and freeze drying) and allowed to rehydrate in hot water prior to consumption. Reducing the water content reduces the ability of microorganisms to thrive.
- Thermostabilized (T) - Also known as the retort process. This process heats foods to destroy pathogens, microorganisms and enzymes that may cause spoilage.
- Extended shelf-life bread products - Scones, waffles and rolls specially formulated to have a shelf life of up to 18 months.
More common staples and condiments do not have a classification and are known simply by the item name:
- Shelf Stable Tortillas - Tortillas that have been heat treated and specially packaged in an oxygen-free nitrogen atmosphere to prevent the growth of mold.
- Condiments - Liquid salt solution, oily pepper paste, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard.
Capitalizing on the popularity of the Apollo space missions, Pillsbury marketed "Food Sticks" (also known as "Space Food Sticks") for the consumer market in the early 1970s. Fourteen individually packaged sticks were included in a box, and came in six flavors such as peanut butter, caramel, and chocolate. Food Sticks were marketed as a "nutritionally balanced between meal snack".
Most of these products can now be found in NASA Space Center gift shops, general novelty shops or at Army Surplus stores. Campers have taken to using products such as Tang due to their reliability, but some others, such as many of the freeze dried foods, contain fragrances that can attract bears, cougars, and other forest animals.
Tang, originally marketed in 1959, also saw an increase in popularity during this era due to its inclusion on the manned space flights.
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- Evans, Ben, "Why Postpone a Success?" The Days Before Freedom 7, AmericaSpace, LLC
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- Gemini III Fact Sheet Spaceline.org
- De Groot, Gerard. Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest. (NYU Press, 2006), p.190
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- "Living It Up in Space" Time, 25 June 1973.
- Former Astronaut Recalls Historic Apollo-Soyuz Mission NASA
- Chinese astronaut food to hit market shelves
- China-made space food for astronauts on display
- 「宇宙日本食」の認証について, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), 2007
- 宇宙日本食, 2010
- Starship Kimchi: A Bold Taste Goes Where It Has Never Gone Before
- Pravda: Healthy diet of Russian cosmonauts ruins NASA's space toilets
- "Christer Fuglesang redo för rymden efter 14 års träning". Retrieved 2006-11-19. (Swedish)
- "Torkat renkött störde julfriden". Sydsvenska dagbladet. (Swedish)
- Kloeris, Vickie (May 1, 2001). "Eating on the ISS". Field Journal:Vickie Kloeris. Retrieved 2006-12-12. "Because there is no gravity, the contents of your stomach float and tend to stay at the top of your stomach, under the rib cage and close to the valve at the top of your stomach. Because this valve isn't a complete closure (just a muscle that works with gravity), if you burp, it becomes a wet burp from the contents in your stomach."
- Connelly, Claire (2001-03-01), "How does space beer taste? It's out of this world...", news.com.au
- Mason, Betsy (2009-12-08), "Barley + Space = Space Beer!", wired.com
- Bourland, Charles (2001) Packaging foods for flight— NASA FTCSC News, July 2001
- Lu, Edward (2003) Expedition 7: Eating at Cafe ISS, Greetings Earthlings:Ed's musings from space, 
- Perchonok, M; Douglas, G; Cooper, M (2009). "Risk of Performance Decrement and Crew Illness Due to an Inadequate Food System". In McPhee, J; Charles, J. Human health and performance risks of space exploration missions : evidence reviewed by the NASA Human Research Program. Johnson Space Center, Houston: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-0160846342.
- Space Food Sticks
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Space food.|
- NASA space food information page
- Beyond Tang: Food in Space
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe article on physics.org
- NASA Space Food Systems Laboratory
- Dining on the Space Station (Video) - Nasa.gov
- Stuff on NASA space food that you didn't think you cared about, straight from the horse's mouth