Eating in space is a daunting task that presents astronauts with a unique challenge. This based on the fact that there’s no gravity! If you let go of a piece of food, it floats off and drifts around the space vehicle.
It’s, therefore, discouraging for people who want to be astronauts since fancy meals seem to be out of the question. However, scientists have invented special ways of packaging and consuming such foods which are packaged in tubes.
John Glenn was the first U.S. astronaut to eat in space when he ate applesauce from an aluminum tube during a 1962 Mercury space mission. Glenn had to squeeze the food into his mouth. This has gradually improved as scientists develop tastier and better foods.
One of the unique techniques developed is known as freeze-drying. Food was cooked, quickly frozen, and then dehydrated in a special vacuum chamber. Freeze-dried food didn't need to be refrigerated and would last a long time.
There are some freeze-dried foods, like fruits, that can be eaten dry. In fact, you may eat astronaut food from time to time without realizing it. Today, many breakfast bowls of cereal include freeze-dried fruits, like strawberries, that are delicious and add color and flavor.
This has changed drastically as astronauts flying modern space shuttle missions are now able to eat many of the same foods they eat on Earth. Food still needs to be dehydrated or prepared in special ways, but space shuttles now have full kitchens with hot water and an oven.
Astronauts are now able to use condiments, like ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, in packets to add flavor. Salt and pepper can be used, too, but they have to be used in a liquid form because otherwise, the grains would just float away!
On Tuesday however, astronauts got a mouth-watering haul with Earth-to-space delivery — pizza and ice cream. This was made possible by a commercial supply ship that arrived at the International Space Station two days after launching from Virginia. Apart from the NASA equipment and experiments, the Orbital ATK capsule held chocolate and vanilla ice cream for the six station astronauts, as well as make-your-own flatbread pizzas.
The cravings for pizza are real amongst astronauts on the orbit - particularly for Italy’s Paolo Nespoli who has been up there since July and has another month to go. Nespoli used the space station’s robot arm to grab the cargo ship, as they zoomed 260 miles above the Indian Ocean.
The capsule also contained all the makings of a good Earth pizza: sauce, cheese, pepperoni, anchovy paste, tomatoes, pesto, olive oil and more. The astronauts also got a hankering for cold treats, thus the big frozen shipment of ice cream cups, ice cream sandwiches, ice cream bars and frozen fruit bars.
The capsule is named the S.S. Gene Cernan in honor of the last man to walk on the moon, who died in January. Some of the experiments to be conducted include mealworms and micro clover, sent up by high school students.
The ship is expected to remain at the space station until the beginning of December when it’s cut loose with a load of trash. It will hover close to the orbiting lab as part of an experiment, then several mini-satellites will be released and it will burn up in the atmosphere as it re-enters earth.