The crew of the current Endeavour mission completed what was almost a 5 hour spacewalk on Monday, detached from the space station today, and prepare for a Friday landing. Which begs me to ask... what are they eating up there?
Many of us have had "Astronaut Ice Cream," the freeze dried Neapolitan brick of what was once ice cream. That odd texture of something at room temperature still melting in you mouth always throws me. And then there's Tang of course.
Beyond that however, what those brave souls are subsisting of up there, traveling at 17,000 miles per hour, remains much of a mystery.
There are several concerns with eating on a space shuttle in zero gravity. Liquids can be dangerous. Who knows what would happen if a floating ball of orange-flavored liquid were to slip into the control panel. That and small objects. Just imagine what kind of havoc a fist full of Mike 'n Ikes would create with an onboard air filtration system.
Sometimes this just limits their choices. The serve up, for example, tortillas not bread. Bread crumbs could be dangerous, but tortillas tear nicely - and they make for great frisbies too. They have been on every mission since 1985. In other circumstances, nearly everything they eat is contained in either a plastic bladder, or what they call an "edible coating."
They can Velcro their dining trays to their legs and attach their utensils magnetically. Salt and pepper are delivered to their food in liquid form, airborne salt and pepper could be a nightmare. They rehydrate the food with the waste water from the fuel cells.
Apparently there are no rules against "playing with your food." Many have seen the video of the banana spiraling into the astronaut's mouth...
But what are they eating? Well, pretty much everything that can be freeze-dried, dehydrated, thermo-stabilized, served in a pouch, and eaten with a spoon. That's quite a bit. Common space meals include things like beef stroganoff, brownies, chicken stew, scrambled eggs, granola bars, macaroni and cheese, chocolate pudding.
On the space station, which is a U.S./Russian venture, they eat both American and Russian dishes. Fruit is a luxury, only being available in the space station for a few days after being visited by the shuttle or an unmanned cargo drone. Another luxury they don't ever get... beer or wine.
This is my favorite picture... If you look closely in the photo above you can clearly make out a bottle of the famous Thai hot sauce, Sriracha.
There seems to be issues with fish coming across as too fishy and one swordfish dish was so bad that a few astronauts refused to eat it. Apparently they don't eat the world famous "Space Ice Cream" either.
But what seems to be the most popular dish? Freeze-dried shrimp cocktail, served with horseradish-infused powdered sauce. (Gross)