Eat Like an Astronaut: on board the International Space Station

The kitchen is small and cramped. Food prices are high. There are tons of ethnic dining options. The International Space Station sounds a lot like a New York City apartment.

It costs $40,000 a day to feed an astronaut.

It’s all about the delivery costs: more than $10,000 to blast a pound of food into outer space, with each astronaut allotted 3.8 pounds of food a day. And while it’s come a long way from the days of freeze-dried ice cream and squeeze tubes of baby food-like purees, there are some serious limitations to cooking in space. The refrigerator is tiny, food packets are heated in suitcase-like food warmers, and meals have to be velcroed onto trays so they won’t float away.

Crumbs + microgravity =  a recipe for disaster.

Astronauts go to great lengths to keep crumbs from floating around their environment where they can wreak havoc with equipment and present a choking a hazard. In the early days of the space program, baked goods were encased in a gelatin coating to prevent crumbing. Today they stick with cookies and crackers that can be eaten in one bite, serve tortillas instead of bread and rolls, and even salt and pepper come in liquid form.

A floating smorgasborg.

No one shows up at the International Space Station empty-handed. Each shuttle visit and crew change adds a little something. The first sushi in space was served in November when a Japanese astronaut arrived with raw fish. The Russians in the current crew packed borscht and smoked fish, and the Americans contributed macaroni and cheese and rice pudding. They keep the peace with an open-pantry policy.

Liquid Refreshment

Soda is out– carbonation bubbles aren’t buoyant in a weightless environment. Alcohol is another no-no for safety reasons. Mostly they drink a lot of coffee. And yes, the astronauts do drink Tang. They even get special flavors like pineapple and mango that aren’t available on Earth.

To learn more about dining in space:

Read the journals (part 1/part 2) of American astronaut Sandra Magnus. During last year’s four month stay aboard the International Space Station, she took space cooking to a whole new level. In her writing she expounds on the overall utility of the tortilla, and explains the functioning of a kitchen arsenal consisting of wet wipes, duct tape, and a knife.

View the NASA video of astronaut Michael Foal as he describes the food choices on the International Space Station and discusses the importance of socializing over food.

Follow the first-ever Twitter feed from space: NASA science officer TJ Creamer has been tweeting since he arrived on the International Space Station in December for a six-month tour of duty.

Eat like an astronaut with the Astronauts’ Cookbook. You can recreate a Thanksgiving dinner in space or try out recipes developed for NASA by celebrity chefs Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray.


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