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What Do Astronauts Eat?

Space menus have come a long way since the early days the US space program, when astronauts squirted tubes of gel in their mouths. Meals must be adequately nutritious, in the smallest volume as possible, preserved for long periods, and edible in zero gravity. And if you're at the ISS for six months at a time, it must be palatable. Technological advances over the past 50 years have greatly expanded the variety of foods that can be eaten in space. And astronauts have a say on what is taken with them.

 

In fact, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield put out a call to his countrymen for suggestions of Canadian food to take on board his next mission – six months on board the International Space Station from December to June 2013.

The astronauts are allowed to bring a selection of so-called "bonus foods" beyond the regular menu, provided it has a long shelf life and is appropriate for space travel.

Out of hundreds of suggestions, Hadfield and his fellow crew members, who taste-tested many products, choosing about a dozen foods, including jerky with cranberries from northern Saskatchewan, dried apple chunks and orange zest cookies from Quebec, chocolate from B.C., a bar with East Coast blueberries produced in Toronto, and, naturally, maple syrup, said Hadfield.

Read more about how modern astronauts eat at CBC News. Link -via the Presurfer

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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This is a fun topic with much overlooked potential for engaging the public's interest in space. To date there has never been actual 'cooking' in space. Astronauts have always relied on what is essentially a kind of camping food or military rations. But if we hope to one day live in space that, of course, means growing food there, which in turn means preparing and cooking that food. We've done much experimentation with growing plants in space, but what about cooking? The processes will be different and even how we design recipes would be different because, in a spacecraft or space habitat, food tastes differently. Few people are actually looking into this. It's a wide open field of exploration.

Recently, I've been promoting the idea of a kind of home and garden show of space where people who are normally excluded from any participation in space programs--designers, architects, artists, and DIY enthusiasts--can explore the possibilities of a future space lifestyle by designing their own mock-ups of habitat interiors. (a relatively easy proposition because, in fact, most permanent space settlements will be all about interior design as they would be relatively simple structures outfit by retrofit) Exploring the possibilities of food in space would be a great addition to that lifestyle exploration. What sort of foods are more likely to be produced early in a settlement's development, relying on things like hydroponics? How do you prepare them? What new technologies might be involved, like kitchen automation, food 'printing', tissue-cultured meat or other protein alternatives? You could really engage people's imaginations with this.
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