Eating In Space

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When I was a child I was fascinated by astronaut ice cream. I would see it in random toy stores or novelty shops. It came in Neapolitan flavors: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. It was freeze-dried, which made it all the more sugary and delicious.

I started thinking about this lately when I was having a nostalgic moment and I wanted to know more about what astronauts eat in space.

One of the things that astronauts want in order to feel comfortable are these creature comforts that remind them of home. While ice cream is a treat, they do need to maintain a large number of calories so that they can do their job well and stay healthy.

Meal plans ensure that the astronaut is consuming enough calories per day. This varies from person to person. For a smaller individual, they may need only 2000 calories per day, whereas a larger person might need more like 3000 calories.

Food needs to stay in place, meaning the astronaut does not want their food to float away, literally, due to the micro-gravity environment. Food that will travel to space is packaged specifically to minimize this risk. Salt and pepper are sent to space in liquid form. Can you imagine hundreds of grains of salt floating in the air, getting in eyes, ears, and equipment? While eating, an astronaut?s food is attached to meal trays with fabric fasteners so that it does not float away. While extremely practical, the idea is kind of amusing to us Earth-dwellers!

According to NASA, one of the challenges of preparing meals for astronauts is that there are no refrigerators in space. Food like pasta can be cooked by adding water and putting them on a stove. Some foods can be consumed in their natural form, such as some pastries and fruit.

Many foods are freeze-dried (like the ice cream) and then prepared later. Food is normally stored in lockers and organized in the order in which it will be eaten. Beverages are prepackaged in powder form to save weight and cargo space.

You may be wondering how astronauts consume meat. ?Meat will spoil easily unless a chemical process is done to it. Before the meat enters the spacecraft, it is exposed to radiation so that it does not spoil as quickly. This is a good thing, because astronauts need the calories from the meat in order to stay healthy; except for the vegetarian astronauts who eat other things of course.

One thing that is a challenge for astronauts is that food doesn?t smell as good as it does on Earth, which can put a damper on appetite. The aroma of various foods tends to waft away before they can actually get a whiff of it. However, they still have access to condiments, to help enhance the appetizing nature of food in space.

Even though they are not on Earth, astronauts get to enjoy some of their favorite foods. You may find an astronaut eating a brownie, candies, peanut butter, or, my favorite, freeze-dried ice cream!

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