What Do Astronauts Eat In Space?

Packing with portions of food for space flight.
Packing with portions of food for space flight.

There are different types of specially preserved food that astronauts can eat while in space. The menu on the International Space station (ISS) typically consists of over a hundred items including pre-prepared meals and deserts. Fresh fruit is also consumed on-board the ISS, and they are locked in special bags and need to be consumed within days. Initially, the United States and the Soviet Union were the dominant space powers, but as other nations joined, so did the variety of food in space.

Evolution Of Space Food

As humans began to venture into space, scientists have faced the need to develop food consumable in microgravity. Food developed had to be lightweight, long-lasting, easy to consume, crumble free, and adequately nutritious. The result was nutritious edible content in a squeezable toothpaste-like tube. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin, a Russian Cosmonaut, consumed the first-ever space meal that consisted of pureed meat followed by chocolate sauce, both in squeezable tubes. The following year John Glenn became the first US astronaut to eat while in space. The meal consisted of pureed beef and vegetables from a tube. Glenn and his fellow astronauts also helped test other foods that included bite-sized chunks of molded crushed-wheat that was coated with gelatin to avoid crumbling and freeze-dried food. Thermo stabilized foods were later introduced, and astronauts were allowed to use spoons and forks. In 1973, the launch of NASA’s Skylab into space came with several technological advancements that allowed astronauts to stay in space for months. The vessel included a refrigerator and a special tray to hold and warm food.

American Astronaut Food

American astronauts mainly eat delicious foods ranging from spicy grilled fish, sausage pies, potato roast beef, tuna salad, and butter bread. Condiments such as mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup are available. Salt and pepper are also available in liquid form to prevent particles from flying away. In 2009, American astronauts even enjoyed smoked and irradiated turkey, freeze-dried cornbread stuffing, green beans, and candied yams. Other favorite menu items include yogurt, spaghetti, spicy sauce, macaroni & cheese, tortillas and wraps, shrimps, and chocolate-covered nuts.

Russian Cosmonaut Food

Russian space travelers enjoy a range of foods, including honey cake, black bread, Russian cheese, quail, Polish pike, ham, and sturgeon. In 2013, new items on the menu were also introduced. They included sesame milk curd, Russian mushrooms, and vegetable soup.

Japanese Astronaut Food

Japanese space food consists of traditional food that expresses the country’s distinct cultural identity. The food includes tomato fish, rice balls, curry noodles, beans, and mountain vegetables. At the request of Japanese astronauts, nine new foods have since been developed. They include fried tofu sushi, tempura soba, Udon noodles, assorted pancakes, and onion scrambled chicken.

Chinese Astronaut Food

The Chinese space menu consists of a diverse list of items that represent Chinese culture. The meals include shredded pork in some garlic sauce, rice dumplings, fried rice, pickled mustard, pickled rice, milk tea, and Char Siu Sauce.

Future Space Food

Humans have continuously inhabited the International Space Station since the year 2000. With lessons learned on space nutrition, various space agencies are currently planning crewed missions to Mars. The shelf life of food is a primary concern for such a challenging mission. In recent years NASA has been exploring various methods of cultivating food in space. There have been successes in growing red romaine lettuce. Other techniques, such as 3D printed food, are also being explored.


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