A Meal Fit For An Astronaut!

May 11, 2014 By Shrinath, Young Editor
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Have you ever wondered what astronauts eat while on their long journeys?

They can’t eat normal food like we do, as normal food would dehydrate and spoil easily in that environment. As you can imagine, astronaut food is not as tasty as normal food. Which is why British Astronaut Tim Peake has launched a competition for school kids to design a tasty meal for his upcoming space mission to the ISS (International Space Station).

According to Major Peake, the food on the ISS was not as “nice as it could be”—currently the food is nutritious, but is “mushy and lacks taste and texture.” The winner of the contest, who designs the most attractive and feasible meal, will get to develop their ideas further with celebrity chefs and will hopefully see their ideas on a spaceship!

What Is Space Food?

The major issue with eating in space is the lack of gravity—if one lets go of food, it would drift around. This is especially dangerous with liquids that could make a mess and cause damage to the spacecraft.

The first space meals were soft, gooey foods squeezed out of toothpastes. As space missions became longer, astronauts complained about the quality of food, and scientists came up with new ways to preserve meals. Foods were freeze-dried - cooked, quickly frozen, and then dehydrated. This led to food lasting ages without any refrigeration and any special storage equipment. Certain foods could than be remixed with water right before consuming on board the craft.

Eating In Zero-Gravity

Astronauts have three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and supper, and several snacks in between. Daily calorie requirements vary between 1,900 to 3,200 calories/day, depending on the individual and how big they are. Astronauts eat food similar to what we eat on earth: mashed potatoes, wheat bread, cheese, biscuits, juice, soup, nuts, sweets, meats and tea.

After 60 to 80 days in outer space, many astronauts’ appetites diminish and the taste of food changes. This is due to shifts in metabolism and changes occurring in the body.

Astronauts often lose their sense of smell, which diminishes the sense of taste. This is because blood flows to their heads owing to the lack of gravity, and this causes their faces to swell and blocks their noses. This is why spicy foods are in high demand, as they are easier to smell and taste.

In the future, scientists think it is possible that astronauts will grow their own grains and vegetables in spaceships to eat—almost like a space farm!

Critical Thinking : Since the contest is only open to U.K kids, we thought we would open up to our readers around the world. What food would you design that can be easily dehydrated, preserved and easy to eat in zero-gravity?

Courtesy NASA