As our astronauts continue to fly into space, scientists constantly try to improve the food items that the astronauts eat.
Space food is actually very similar to what you might find at the grocery store, but it is packaged a little differently. The food is packaged so that the astronauts can get all the vitamins and nutrients that they need to stay healthy on their flight and to prevent the food from damaging the ship's equipment.
Food for Early Astronauts
John Glenn was Americaís first astronaut to eat food in space. At first there wasnít much to pick from, mostly freeze dried- powders, bite size cubes, and semi-liquids stuffed in aluminum tubes. The foods were very unappetizing. The bite size cubes had to be coated with a special kind of gelatin (like Jell-O) to keep it from crumbling. This was especially important because the crumbs could have floated into the spaceshipís instruments and possibly shut down its systems. Freeze dried foods were cased in a special container to make the foods form easier. Improving the food packaging also improved the taste.
Apollo astronauts were the first to have hot water to add to the foods, so they tasted better. They were the first to use the "Spoon Bowl", a plastic container that could be opened and its contents eaten with a spoon. We call this a pudding or Jell-O cup now.
Skylab was one of the first spaceships to have a place to eat with a table, freezer, refrigerator, hot and cold water, and an oven to warm up foods.
Food on the Space Shuttle
Inside the space shuttle it is very small and there is not much room to eat. When a crew member eats, he uses a tray that attaches to his lap or on a wall. Because of the lack of gravity in outer space, the trays of food could float all over the space shuttle. This is why they had to design a tray like that. Also the tray makes the food stay on it.
Each crew member has a limit of 3.8 pounds of food per person per day, including 1 pound of packaging. All foods are packaged for single servings so they can just throw away the package after they are done eating. They also have on board an extra two days of food for all the crew members in case of any emergencies.
Choosing the Menu
Astronauts have to choose a menu for their shuttle flight six months before they leave. The crew can help pick out their menu, but it has to include a balanced diet.
Astronauts can choose their menu from a variety of foods:
Two favorite foods of the astronauts are shrimp cocktail and M&Mís! Foods are tested everyday for improvements.
Brush, Brush, Brush
The astronauts have to brush their teeth after each meal just like you and me. They also have a "Waste Collection System" which is just like a toilet on Earth. When an astronaut flies into space, the shuttle is designed to make them as comfortable as possible.
With all the latest technologies in the space program, I wouldnít doubt, that soon space food will consist of pizza and chicken nuggets!
Space Exploration of the Past, Present, and Future