5 Flight Engineer Sergei Treschev, left, and NASA ISS
Science Officer Peggy Whitson share a meal aboard the
International Space Station.|
favorite space food was peanut butter. I'm not a big fan of it on
the ground, but couldn't get enough of it in space."
Expedition 5 NASA ISS Science Officer
stuck in a house for months, not able to venture out to go to the
grocery store whenever a particular food craving hits. All that
you have to survive on is already stowed in the pantry. The items
in this pantry have been predetermined long ahead of time, and if
your taste buds happen to change, you are simply out of luck.
The Space Food
Systems Laboratory at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston does
all it can to ensure the astronauts are happy when it comes to their
Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus plans to enjoy a tortilla
with her lunch. Flour tortillas are considered the favorite
bread item of astronauts, because they do not give off
crumbs. Read more Tidbits.
about Eating in Space
is extremely important to astronauts, and the longer the flight,
the more significant those choices become. The meals are stowed
pantry-style onboard Space Station, so crewmembers can eat food
items in any order they wish. For instance, if crewmembers want
to have chicken three nights in a row, they can do that.
on Space Station, so much of what is going on is beyond their control,"
said Vickie Kloeris, JSC manager of Space Food Systems. "And
so food is just a comfort thing that they would like to feel they
have some input on or some control over. It's just a big psychological
thing -- I don't know if we've flown anyone to Station that has
not been concerned about their food."
Vest, Food Services director and executive chef for JSC, agrees
that comfort food is of the utmost importance, especially when astronauts
are in space.
where there is little outside stimulation and we're somewhat lonely,
food becomes more of a focus because it gives us sensual and chemical
stimulation," Vest said. "We also crave the social payoff
in 'breaking bread' with our companions."
The Space Food
Systems Laboratory tries to vary the menus by allowing the crew
to take bonus containers into space, in which they can request special,
off-the-menu food items. These usually include commercially available
candy bars, cookies or crackers -- anything with a long shelf life.
Steve Smith enjoys a meal in space. Read more about mission
Yet even with
the special goodies sent to the Space Station ahead of time, astronauts
inevitably return to Earth wishing that they could have had more
food variety in space.
-- especially fresh food items -- often shows up when a Russian
Progress vehicle docks to the Space Station. The unpiloted cargo
spacecraft usually brings fresh items such as apples, oranges, grapefruits
and other fruit items. The Russians also include interesting foods
that Americans do not typically eat.
will fly things like raw onion and raw garlic, because that's more
a part of their culture than part of our culture," Kloeris
said. "But it's interesting because some of our American crewmembers
have said that even though it didn't sound all that great ahead
of time, it actually was nice to have it because it was something
items for Space Station crewmembers can also pose a challenge due
to the fact that most crewmembers say that their tastes change while
in orbit. While Kloeris notes that there is no real scientific data
to support that theory, there is plenty of anecdotal data.
Kloeris, JSC manager of Space Food Systems. |
astronauts seem to like spicier foods and tart beverages such as
lemonade in space, while on the ground those items are not as appreciated.
Peggy Whitson's personal account of food echoes that thought. "When
STS-112 visited, I told the commander that I wasn't opening the
hatch unless they had salsa," said Whitson, the Expedition 5 Space
Station Science Officer. "My favorite space food was peanut butter.
I'm not a big fan of it on the ground, but couldn't get enough of
it in space."
The Space Food
Systems Laboratory learns more from each crew about how to keep
long-duration flight astronauts happy with their menus. And although
food seems so basic to the ordinary person, it is much more important
when you do not have ready access to a grocery store.
is one of the first senses with which we explore the world,"
Vest said. "There are a lot of chemical reasons for food to
be a comfort mechanism. However, our primitive brain is hardwired
to equate food with 'home' and safety. When we're hungry, we're
all two years old."
photos were provided by Johnson Space Center's Roundup.