Astronauts eat specially designed food in space to meet their nutritional needs. The food is packaged in a way that allows it to be easily consumed and prevents it from spoiling. It includes a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. However, the food is processed and often comes in the form of dehydrated or freeze-dried meals. Astronauts also have access to condiments and seasonings to enhance the flavor of their meals. The food is carefully planned and prepared to ensure that astronauts receive the necessary nutrients and energy to stay healthy during their time in space.
In space, there is no pizza delivery service available. Unfortunately, this is a reality. If you aspire to become an astronaut one day, don’t do it for the food!
Eating in space poses a real challenge. Why? Because there is insufficient gravity! If you release a French fry, it will float away and drift around your spacecraft! Good luck trying to hold onto your meal. How about a cup of water? Forget it! Water will not stay inside a cup. It will also float freely in the air.
So, how do astronauts manage to stay in space for days or weeks at a time? Scientists have developed special methods for packaging and consuming food in space. Initially, space food consisted of soft foods (similar to baby food!) packaged in tubes, much like toothpaste.
In 1962, John Glenn became the first U.S. astronaut to eat in space. During a Mercury mission, he consumed applesauce from an aluminum tube. He had to squeeze the food into his mouth.
If this does not sound appealing to you, you are not alone. Astronauts were not fond of it either. Eventually, scientists discovered ways to create better-tasting and more enjoyable space food.
One technique they employ is freeze-drying. In this method, food is rapidly frozen and dehydrated after cooking. Freeze-dried food does not require refrigeration and has a long shelf life.
To consume freeze-dried food, astronauts add water to the food packages. Once the food absorbs the water, it is ready to eat. Astronauts can use hot water to prepare hot and flavorful meals that are also nutritious.
Some freeze-dried foods, such as fruit, can be eaten in their dry form. In fact, you may unknowingly consume astronaut food from time to time. Nowadays, many breakfast cereals include freeze-dried fruits, like strawberries.
Present-day astronauts consume many of the same foods they would eat on Earth. However, the food is still dehydrated or prepared using specialized methods. Space shuttles are now equipped with full kitchens, complete with hot water and an oven.
Astronauts are also able to use condiments. They have access to ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise packets to add flavor. They can also add salt and pepper, but these spices must be in liquid form; otherwise, the grains would simply float away!
Beverages also need to be dehydrated. They are stored in powdered form in special pouches. These pouches are equipped with built-in straws or special nozzles, allowing astronauts to drink directly from the pouch after adding water.
In order to prevent their food from floating away, astronauts utilize Velcro fasteners. Their trays are secured to their laps, enabling them to enjoy a meal while seated.
Nutritionists carefully plan astronaut meals to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients and vitamins. However, some astronauts may experience digestive issues after spending an extended period of time in space.
Experts believe that these problems may be caused by a decrease in the number of “good” bacteria in the astronauts’ bodies. To learn more about this issue, a group of high school students from Jefferson County, Kentucky, will conduct an experiment. Their experiment will be sent into outer space aboard the space shuttle Endeavour as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.
The students have devised an experiment to investigate the impact of microgravity on Lactobacillus GG. This probiotic could potentially help future astronauts maintain better health in space.
A total of 16 experiments designed by students will be conducted on Endeavour. This is significant because Endeavour is the only space shuttle that was named by children. In 1988, students participated in a national competition to name the shuttle.
The winning name, Endeavour, was inspired by an 18th-century British ship. However, the spelling of the name has caused some confusion. Many people want to spell it as “Endeavor” which is the American spelling. However, the space shuttle uses the British spelling with a “u” because that is how the name of the earlier ship was spelled.
Do you have a favorite food that you would like to take to space? Have you ever wondered how dehydrated pizza or chicken nuggets would look like in space? Space food may not always look appetizing, but it provides astronauts with the necessary nutrients to perform their tasks effectively!
Give it a Try
Are you interested in learning more about food in space? Find a friend or family member to assist you in exploring the following activities:
- Space travel for the average person is becoming increasingly possible. Take a look at our Wonder: What Would You Pack for a Trip to Outer Space? Create your own packing list.
- Would you like to take a closer look at astronaut food? Visit the NASA website to see a Space Food Tray with samples of food. What do you think? Does the food look appetizing to you? Would you be willing to give up some of your favorite foods for a short period of time for the opportunity to go to outer space? As you have your next meal with your family, discuss how it differs from what astronauts eat. Would your meal taste different in space? Would it be easy or difficult to eat in space? Compare your dinner table to an astronaut’s food tray and have fun!
- Are you interested in learning more about what astronauts do in space? Read about the International Space Station. Afterwards, share the most fascinating facts you learned with a friend or family member.
- http://science.howstuffworks.com/astronauts-eat-in-space.htm (accessed 19 Sept. 2019)
- http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/04/28/schoolchildren-named-nasas-space-shuttle-endeavour/ (accessed 19 Sept. 2019)
- http://ssep.ncesse.org/communities/selected-experiments-on-sts-134/ (accessed 19 Sept. 2019)
- http://www.spacekids.co.uk/spacefood/ (accessed 19 Sept. 2019)