When I was a kid, I spent quite a few evenings laying out on the lawn at my parents holiday house down the South Coast of NSW. I would lie there covered in Areoguard and listen to animals rustling in the trees, cicadas, the distant thumping of a kangaroo and the occasional splash in the river a few metres away. I love the sound of the bush at night and I do miss it a great deal. I didn’t go and lay on the grass for the noises, it was flat on my back to witness the best show off earth, our solar system.
To stare at the swirling mass the milky way. Watching stars twinkling like Christmas lights, picking the lights out that did not twinkle, looking for the saucepan, the southern cross and other constellations. I would get so excited when I would see something move, sometimes it was a distant plane so high up you could not hear it, sometimes it would be space junk or a meteorite burning up on entering our atmosphere, just whizzing by and then sometimes it would be a satellite or similar. I would watch and dream of what was out there.
My fascination for space has not cooled and when I knew I was going to be spending a couple of days in Florida on my trip to the USA, well, it was a no brainer on what I wanted to do. So after around 24 hours of traveling and only a few hours of sleep I found myself on a bus at 8am in the morning heading out to J F Kennedy Space Centre.
Guess what…………….. Astronauts eat!! So combine my love of food and my love of space, let’s just say I had a really awesome day.
Did you know that astronauts prefer tortillas over bread? “Of course” you say, “because they take up less room, right?” Errrrr nope. “They make great Frisbees?” I hear you say. Well yes they do, sure they can toss one and see if they fellow astronaut can catch it in their mouth, but that isn’t it. “So what then/”, I hear you ask. Well tortillas don’t make as many crumbs which can be dangerous in zero gravity. They could get stuck in an eye or a vital filter. Tortillas have been provided on every space mission since 1985 when they were introduced by Rodolfo Neri Vela a Mexican scientist. NASA acquire these partially dehydrated Frisbees from teh same company that supplied Taco Bell.
What else do they eat? Not as much as when they are on Earth, that’s for sure. They can eat and drink up to 70% less in space, this is due to the human body adapting to weightlessness. Food has changed over the years of space travel. The first person to eat in space was John Glenn in 1962 and it was applesauce. Imagine holding what looks like a toothpaste container to your mouth and squirting puree in to your mouth, oh so yummy. Hey but really would you care, you are in space! Food was very sedate for the early missions, you have to realise that humans were guinea pigs and space was such a new frontier, they had no idea how the body would react to food under zero gravity.
By the time the Apollo missions started NASA was serving nutritionally balanced meals with a variety of options. These meals were freeze-dried, dehydrated or thermo stabilised (heat treated to kill bacteria) and well guys it did not look like regular food.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to set foot on the moon, they were also the first men to eat on the moon. They ate ham salad sandwiches, rehydrated beverages and fruit strips. There were four meals in total by the Apollo 11 crew which were eaten on the moon’s surface, and sadly today if you drop by the moon to have a look around you will find their garbage up there along with the lunar module they left behind. Go USA!! Maybe they will clean up one day??
These days quite a elaborate variety of meals are consumed on the International Space Station (ISS). When Japan sent their first crew member up in 2008 he brought along about 30 dishes with him. Apparently the freeze dried shrimp cocktail served with horseradish infused powered sauce is the most popular.
Due to storage issues and dietary restrictions astronauts can eat when and whatever they feel like. Astronauts are all allocated two cases to fill with any type of non perishable food such they wish, eg Pringles or M&Ms.
In 2008 astronaut and ISS crew member Sandra Magnus was the first person to try and cook a meal in space. It took over an hour to saute some onions and garlic in the space stations food warmer, but the end result was a mesquite grilled tuna in a lemon garlic ginger marinade. Eaten from a bag obviously, but apparently truly delicious.
There isn’t a stove or fridge on the ISS, there aren’t knives or chairs either. Astronauts eat on a table which can be either strapped to themselves or a wall (think stable table size) and they eat with a spoon out of an aluminium pouch.
This girl was like a kid in a candy shop. I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time I was there. It was awesome to see the space craft used in previous missions. To see where the Space Shuttles are kept. To see the actual launch pads. Also saw alligators and armadillos. Awesome experience!
When lunch time came around for me during my visit to the Space Centre, it was a trip to the cafeteria where burgers, hot dogs, pizzas and salads were on the menu. Now, I wanted to try something that was not common in Australia, so I decided on a pulled pork sandwich and fries (yes I know we have fries). The pulled pork had a wonderful smokey flavour to it, I was pleasantly surprised.
When it came to a late afternoon snack I opted for Space Dots (candy cane flavour) of course, what else do you have when you are visiting a Space Centre! I have tried these before, in Hong Kong actually and well I am actually quite partial to them. The freaky, hard, extremely cold round dots of ice cream that stay separate from each other, yep they are unusual but I love them.
Soooooo……………….. what does one snack on when they are writing a post on space food. Why freeze dried ice cream of course, a cookies and cream ice cream sandwich. This was developed by request for one of the Apollo missions. Was not popular so it is not provided these days.
Now if we eat our bodies do need to get rid of the waste, and this is where they go on the ISS, nothing like strapping yourself in with a vacuum. Quite honestly it looks down right scary!
My visit to Kennedy Space Centre was a wonderful up close and personal look at our space history exploration. Many men and woman have risked their lives in exploration of really just the surface of what is out there. I want to also take a moment to pay my respect to those who lost their lives trying to explore an amazing frontier.