Eating aboard a spacecraft is more than
just grabbing some fast-food. Biological, operational, and engineering
factors all play a part in the types of food that are available in
a spacecraft. These factors involve the effect of the food on the
astronaut, the structure of the food's container, and how manageable
the food and container is, respectively. The following table lists
factors that determine good space food.
||long shelf life
Biological, operational, and engineering
factors are simply categories by which space food descriptions are
split. Due to the space environment and its limitations, the type
of food brought into space must be carefully examined.
The health of the astronauts depends on the biological factors in
food design. The food must be safe, nutritious, and palatable. It
must also be easy to digest and must not cause gastroenterological
or hygiene problems.
The engineering factors deal with the weight of the package and food
as well as how compact they are for storage. Long voyages require
large amounts of food, which must also survive the temperature, pressure,
acceleration, and vibration of flight. Food must be dehydrated to
make it lighter, more compact, and less likely to spoil. Vehicle mass
(weight) is one of the most critical spacecraft aspects, because as
weight increases, the fuel and therefore cost required increases.
The operational factors involve both the food and its packaging. The
food must have a long shelf life (over 30 days), and the food and
its container must be light in weight for easy use. In addition to
difficulty in moving things in microgravity, the astronauts may have
work to do. Therefore, food must be easy to both prepare and dispose
in order to save time.
Astronauts today rely on prepackaged food, which is not very appetizing
and would not be ideal for extended space missions. Plants would be
a good source of food, and they could supply oxygen and remove carbon
dioxide. Plants have successfully been grown in microgravity. Crops
of potatoes, soybeans, lettuce, carrots, wheat, and rice may possibly
be grown in space, as scientists are selectively breeding them to
be smaller in size but high-yielding in order to maximize production
of food in limited spaces.