Kimchi Goes to Space

Wherever Koreans go, kimchi goes with them - even to space:

After millions of dollars and years of research, South Korean scientists successfully engineered kimchi and nine other Korean recipes fit for space travel. When the Russian space authorities this month approved them for Ko's trip, the South Korean food companies that participated in the research took out full-page newspaper ads.

The other space food Koreans created include the national instant noodle called ramyeon, hot pepper paste, fermented soybean soup and sticky rice.

But kimchi - a must-have side dish at every Korean meal - was the toughest to turn into space food.

"The key was how to make a bacteria-free kimchi while retaining its unique taste, color and texture," said Lee Ju Woon at the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute, who began working on the newfangled kimchi in 2003 with samples provided by his mother.

Ordinary kimchi is teeming with microbes, like lactic acid bacteria, which help fermentation. On Earth they are harmless, but scientists fear they could turn dangerous in space if cosmic rays cause them to mutate. Another problem is that kimchi has a short shelf life, especially when temperatures fluctuate rapidly, as they do in space.

If a new breed of lethal mutant bacteria come to lay waste to human civilization, we all know what to blame: that darned kimchi!

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