Freeze Dried astronaut food

April 9, 2014
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The food that NASA's early astronauts had to eat in space is a testament to their fortitude. John Glenn, America's first man to eat anything in the near-weightless environment of Earth orbit, found the task of eating fairly easy, but found the menu to be limited. Other Mercury astronauts had to endure bite-sized cubes, freezedried powders, and semiliquids stuffed in aluminum tubes. Most agreed the foods were unappetizing and disliked squeezing the tubes. Moreover, freeze-dried foods were hard to rehydrate and crumbs had to be prevented from fouling instruments.

The astronauts complained and on the Gemini missions eating improved somewhat. The first things to go were the squeeze tubes. Bite-sized cubes were coated with gelatin to reduce crumbling, and the freeze-dried foods were encased in a special plastic container to make reconstituting easier. With improved packaging came improved food quality and menus. Gemini astronauts had such food choices as shrimp cocktail, chicken and vegetables, butterscotch pudding, and apple sauce, and were able to select meal combinations themselves.

By the time of the Apollo program, the quality and variety of food increased even further. Apollo astronauts were first to have hot water, which made rehydrating foods easier and improved the food's taste. These astronauts were also the first to use the "spoon bowl, " a plastic container that could be opened and its contents eaten with a spoon .

The task of eating in space got a big boost in Skylab. Unlike previous space vehicles for astronauts, Skylab featured a large interior area where space was available for a dining room and table. Eating for Skylab's three-member teams was a fairly normal operation: footholds allowed them to situate themselves around the table and "sit" to eat. Added to the conventional knife, fork, and spoon was a pair of scissors for cutting open plastic seals. Because Skylab was relatively large and had ample storage area, it could feature an extensive menu: 72 different food items. It also had a freezer and refrigerator, a convenience no other vehicle offered.

The Shuttle Food System

The kinds of foods the Space Shuttle astronauts eat are not mysterious concoctions, but foods prepared here on Earth, many commercially available on grocery store shelves. Diets are designed to supply each Shuttle crew member with all the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) of vitamins and minerals necessary to perform in the environment of space. Caloric requirements are determined by the National Research Council formula for basal energy expenditure (BEE). For women, BEE = 655 + (9.6 x W) + (1.7 x H) - (4.7 x A), and for men, BEE = 66 + (13.7 x W) + (5 x H) - (6.8 x A), where W = weight in kilograms, H = height in centimeters, and A = age in years.

Shuttle astronauts have an astonishing array of food items to choose from. They may eat from a standard menu designed around a typical Shuttle mission of 7 days, or may substitute items to accommodate their own tastes. Astronauts may even design their own menus. But those astronaut-designed menus must be checked by a dietitian to ensure the astronauts consume a balanced supply of nutrients.

The standard Shuttle menu repeats after 7 days. It supplies each crew member with three balanced meals, plus snacks. Each astronaut's food is stored aboard the Shuttle and is identified by a colored dot affixed to each package.

Food Preparation

On the Space Shuttle, food is prepared at a galley installed on the orbiter's mid-deck. The galley is a modular unit that contains a water dispenser and an oven. The water dispenser is used for rehydrating foods, and the galley oven is for warming foods to the proper serving temperature.

Almost Like Eating At Home

During a typical meal in space, a meal tray is used to hold the food containers. The tray can be attached to an astronaut's lap by a strap or attached to a wall. The meal tray becomes the astronaut's dinner plate and enables him or her to choose from several foods at once, just like a meal at home. Without the tray, the contents of one container must be completely consumed before opening another. The tray also holds the food packages in place and keeps them from floating away in the microgravity of space.

Conventional eating utensils are used in space. Astronauts use knife, fork, and spoon. The only unusual eating utensil is a pair of scissors used for cutting open the packages. Following the meal, food containers are discarded in the trash compartment below the mid-deck floor. Eating utensils and food trays are cleaned at the hygiene station with premoistened towelettes.

Crews have reported that the Shuttle food system functions well in space. It consists of familiar, appetizing, well-accepted food items that can be prepared quickly and easily. A full meal for a crew of four can be set up in about 5 minutes. Reconstituting and heating the food takes an additional 20 to 30 minutes about the time it takes to fix a snack at home, and far less than it takes to cook a complete meal.

Astronaut Food Review | Bethany G
Astronaut Food Review | Bethany G
RiFF RAFF - FREEZE DRiED (Official Video)
RiFF RAFF - FREEZE DRiED (Official Video)
Spider Tries: "Astronaut Food"
Spider Tries: "Astronaut Food"
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