First House Meals
In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin grew to become the primary human to orbit Earth. He additionally was the primary particular person to eat in house.
Gagarin’s crumb-free meal featured two parts of pureed meat, saved neatly in toothpaste-tube-like containers. To eat it, he merely squeezed the meals straight into his mouth. And for dessert? Mission planners had been variety sufficient to incorporate a tube of chocolate sauce.
The next yr, astronaut John Glenn grew to become the primary American to orbit Earth. (Astronaut Alan Shepard flew to house first, however his 15-minute suborbital flight was so brief he didn’t eat.)
Glenn’s meal choice wasn’t any higher than Gagarin’s, however at the least NASA packed him a straw. Glenn was served up a tube of applesauce, plus some sugar tablets that he dissolved in water. He was additionally issued pureed beef and greens in a tube, which now belongs to the Nationwide Air and House Museum.
On the time, scientists had greater considerations than pleasing astronaut style buds. Nobody knew how the physique would react to consuming in a zero-gravity surroundings. Would Glenn be capable of swallow and digest meals? Fortuitously, his physique dealt with the house meal simply wonderful. However that wasn’t the tip of consuming meals that appeared extra like toothpaste. All through the Mercury program — NASA’s early missions exploring orbital spaceflight — astronauts needed to get used to sucking meals from tubes. Different menu choices included freeze-dried powders and bite-sized cubes.
It wasn’t till NASA superior to the Gemini program and was prepping for the moon that the house company lastly heeded astronauts’ complaints. Gemini astronauts received to eat solid-ish meals. The food-paste tubes had been gone. The cubes had been coated in gelatin to cease crumbs. And NASA stepped up its freeze-dried meals by placing them in plastic containers that made it simpler for astronauts to show them into one thing palatable, like a shrimp cocktail or rooster and veggies.
Contraband Corned Beef
However that also wasn’t sufficient for some astronauts. Complaining concerning the grub in orbit is a timeless — and comprehensible — custom amongst astronauts.
Within the Gemini missions, astronaut Gus Grissom was so vocal about his disdain for NASA’s meal decisions that, in 1965, pilot John Younger smuggled a corned beef sandwich onboard Gemini 3 to share with Grissom. It was NASA’s first two-person mission, and the primary meal shared in orbit. They needed to stash the sandwich away after the primary few bites, although, as crumbs of rye bread had been floating by the cabin.
Not everybody appreciated the joke. Some members of Congress had been so upset that they investigated whether or not the contraband delicacies endangered the mission.
By Apollo 17, the menu out there to astronauts had improved drastically. (Credit score: NASA)
By the point the Apollo missions kicked off, issues had improved considerably. Astronauts might thank engineers for 2 main new developments: scorching water and the “spoon bowl.” Sizzling water helped astronauts extra simply reconstitute freeze-dried meals. The spoon bowl consisted of a plastic bag that may very well be unzipped so its contents may very well be eaten with a spoon, making a extra earthly consuming expertise.
However why freeze-dry astronaut meals? Easy: Eradicating sufficient water prevents micro organism from having the ability to develop. That is nonetheless a preferred means of serving meals to astronauts right this moment, although there’s now a a lot wider collection of meals from which to decide on, which is basically as a consequence of extra out there actual property.
Astronauts are already rising greens in house, utilizing the Worldwide House Station’s Superior Plant Habitat. Above, the crew prepares to measure the peak of wheat samples grown in orbit. NASA is slowly studying to provide small quantities of contemporary meals on the house station. (Credit score: NASA)
Meals on the ISS
The Worldwide House Station has sufficient room to retailer the 200 completely different objects on the trendy menu, most of which have to be rehydrated. (NASA now even lets astronauts pack a heat sandwich with them at launch and eat it in orbit.) And whereas Mercury astronauts would possibly envy the choice, Glenn’s first flight solely lasted one orbit. Astronauts now keep in house for a lot of months at a time, with the identical collection of meals provided to them week after week.
Even the seasonings are alien. Shaking salt and pepper in orbit might simply create an airborne hazard, so that they should be disbursed in liquid type.
“Every little thing is in a packet — steak, pasta, espresso. We both drink it by a straw or lower it open and eat it with a spoon,” Koch mentioned in a current NASA interview. “A few of us get artistic, inventing unusual meals combos — a cracker with rehydrated cocktail shrimp and sauce. We additionally develop strategies to spice issues up; I exploit a syringe to inject coconut oil into my espresso drink bag.”
European House Company astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti drinks the primary espresso ever brewed in house. The orbiting espresso machine used, dubbed ISSpresso, was developed by an Italian aerospace firm and famed espresso maker Lavazza. (Credit score: ESA)
Catering to astronauts’ style buds could seem to be a light-hearted affair, however the psychological results may very well be critical on a mission to Mars, which might final nicely over a yr. Will the menu monotony take a toll? For Koch, the affect of life with out crunchy meals was sufficient to fixate on after 328 days.
“I haven’t had chips in about 10 and a half months,” she instructed the AP, including “I’ve had a contemporary apple.” On a Mars mission, astronauts probably couldn’t even anticipate that sort of contemporary produce.