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Space Food



Food is one of the basic needs of a human being. So, have we ever wondered what astronauts eat during their space expeditions? They have processed food which is referred to as Space Food. Space food is made in such a way that it can be consumed during space missions. As NASA began sending humans to space, there also began the search for food for the astronauts. The first food consumed in space by a US astronaut was apple sauce packaged in an aluminum tube and eaten by John Glenn over 60 years ago on the third manned Mercury mission. In the first two manned space missions, astronauts consumed meat from a squeezable tube along with the chocolate sauce. The Mercury mission (1962-1964) was the first mission to test space food. It included bite-sized cubes, freeze-dried powder, and tubes of semi-liquids. This food was unappetizing. The food packaging during the Gemini (1965-1967) spaceflights was much improved. The Apollo (1968-1975) spaceflights introduced thermostabilized foods and the use of spoons, bowls, and thermostabilized pouches. Eating a meal during the Skylab (1971-1973) spaceflights, was more like eating a meal at home with the luxury of a heating device and a variety of food items.

What is Space Food?

Food is a substance that is consumed by living organisms to survive and get energy. The food we eat on earth is mostly fresh food and sometimes processed food. But, is it possible to consume fresh food in space? No, it is impossible to consume fresh food in space as it can get spoilt. Therefore, space food was invented. Space food is processed in such a way that it is healthy, easy to eat, easy to dispose of, and similar in taste to normal food.

Types of Space Food

  • Thermostabilized food – In this process, the food is heated to a very high temperature so that the pathogens, microorganisms, and enzyme activities are inhibited. Pouched soups, sides, desserts, puddings, and entrees can be thermostabilized.
  • Rehydratable food – Rehydratable foods are mostly side dishes. They are processed freeze-dried foods. The food is rehydrated using potable water during space expeditions.
  • Natural form – Food such as dry fruits are preferred space food as they can stay fresh for a long time are nutritious, and are easy to eat.
  • Extended shelf-life products – Items such as waffles, tortillas, chips can be formulated and packaged to give them a shelf life of up to 18 months.
  • Fresh food – Fresh fruits and vegetables have a small shelf life, so they are provided on a limited basis.
  • Beverages – The beverages are freeze‐dried beverage mixes (such as coffee or tea) or flavored drinks (such as lemonade or orange drink). The drink mixes are vacuum-sealed inside a beverage pouch. In the case of coffee and tea, sugar or powdered cream is added before sealing.

Processing and Packaging of Space Food

Formulating and processing food for consumption in space is often an arduous process. The food must meet several criteria to be even recognized as a portion of space food. First and foremost, the food must be nutritious, easily digestible, and appetizing. Next, the food must be engineered for consumption in a zero-gravity environment, that is, it must be light in weight, well packaged, fast to serve and minimum cleaning is preferable. Lastly, the food must be stored well, should be easy to open, and should leave minimum waste. The main purpose of packaging the space food is preserving and holding in the food and also, the packaging must be light in weight and easy to dispose of. The packaging also includes a bar-coded label, as it helps to track the astronaut’s diet. Food is packed in sealed containers that fit into trays to keep them in place. The lower side of the tray has straps that allow the astronauts to attach the tray to an anchor point such as a wall surface and include clips for holding a beverage pouch or cutlery in place in the microgravity environment.

Future Innovations

Food scientists have undertaken major projects such as making space food more stable for consumption which is sponsored by NASA. New technologies are emerging to improve the quality of space food and beverages, improve the storage conditions and look into the prospects of space gardening. Biodegradable packaging material is also being made to reduce waste disposal. Food scientists are also trying to make the food coating edible which will reduce the issue of waste disposal. Another important project being undertaken is the designing and production of 3D glasses. 3D glasses will help prevent the spillage of beverages. Also, the packaging of soft drinks is being looked into as many a times the carbon dioxide from the drink gets mixed in the environment which reduces the taste of the soft drink and can harm the environment. An innovative method was used recently in space which was putting a black aluminum foil on the alcohol bottles to facilitate the flow of liquid in zero gravity. The setting up of distilleries at the space station is being looked into for the fermentation of alcoholic drinks. As there was a complaint from the astronauts about the color and flavor of the beverages, the scientists are working on improving it.


Good nutritious food is important to human health for people either living on earth or traveling through space. The food items consumed in space are prepared on earth as there is no arrangement to make food in space. Food scientists are working on improving the processing, storage, and packaging of food. It is important to optimize nutrient intake to mitigate the negative effects of space expedition on the body while ensuring that diet doesn’t adversely affect health. It is not easy to confirm that every aspect of the diet is considered, but they are all necessary for the success of space missions.

Reference (Aug-21-A8)

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