Ever Wondered What Astronauts Eat? We Have The Full Details

written by Njoroge Muigai 13th August 2013


The topic of space exploration is filled with lots of fiction and fantasy owing to our wild human imagination. Interestingly, man has been to space dozens of times ever since the first space exploration decades ago.

The funny thing is we never get to ask ourselves what astronauts eat during their missions to space. That statement sounds blonde because yes we know they eat food (thank you know it alls) but is it exactly the same food we eat on earth?

Imagine trying to curve out a stake in zero gravity or drinking anything- it just seems like a testing ordeal.

Too many movies have made us believe that there is the all important ‘gravity switch’ or ‘gravity stabilizer’ on spacecrafts but contrary to popular belief there is no such tech. We still have some way to go before we can replicate earth like conditions in spacecrafts like the Enterprise.

Despite these ‘obvious’ challenges, astronaut diets have managed to be balanced meals. These space foods have been developed over time to make them palatable in micro gravity as well as tasty since most have been processed in a form that can be easily ingested.

Brief history of space menus

During the early space missions of the 60’s, foods were packed in toothpaste-type tubes containing two servings of puréed meat and one of chocolate sauce.

Later on astronauts on other missions ate bite-sized cubes, freeze-dried powders and tubes of semi liquids, which they disliked. They found these foods unappetizing and had difficulties rehydrating the freeze-dried foods.

As the years progressed, food options got expanded and in the 70’s,  on-board  refrigerators were fitted in spacecraft allowing the storage of perishable and frozen items.

This was on a Skylab mission between 1973 and 1974. On the menu were foods like processed meat products and ice cream.

Despite these advances, the food was better but astronauts still felt it tasted different in space than on Earth. The astronauts enjoyed the frozen food more and preferred spicy foods.

There are different classifications of foods offered on space flights. These foods are:

Beverages classified as (B); consists of frozen dried drink mixes like coffee or tea as well as flavored drinks like lemonade or orange drink.

Fresh Foods (FF); these consists of vegetables and fresh fruits. Since they are perishable they are eaten within the first two days of flight and are mainly to provide psychological support.

Irradiated (I) meat; beef steak that has been sterilized with ionizing radiation to keep from spoiling

Intermediate moisture (IM); these are foods with just enough moisture that can’t cause immediate spoilage

Natural form (NF); like nuts, cookies and ready to eat granola bars.

Rehydratable(R); foods which have been dehydrated so as to keep them from going bad. They are rehydrated in hot water prior to consumption. A close example would be instant noodles.

Thermostabilized (T); these are foods that have been processed by heating to destroy pathogens and microbes that may cause spoilage

Extended shelf-life bread products; these are specially formulated to have a shelf life of up to 18 months. They include scones, waffles and rolls

Condiments are also made available such as mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise and surprisingly salt and pepper but only in liquid form.

Modern space flights have greatly improved the space eating experience. The menus are not only larger but astronauts have more variety to choose from.

They even request from personalized menus but no alcohol is allowed in space. The future of space dining keeps inching closer to the fiction we watch on Sci-fi movies ad series.

Hopefully in the near future they will be ordering from Eat Out Kenya’s space division.

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