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A Day in the Life Aboard the International Space Station

    Eating in Space

    Imagine going camping for more than a week with several of your close friends. You would make sure you have plenty of food and the gear to cook and eat it with. The food would have to be stored properly and be nonperishable to avoid spoilage. After finishing your meal, or at the end of your camping trip, you would then stow all your gear and dispose of your trash properly just before the ride home.

    A female astronat eating while being upside down

    Eating in microgravity can be very different than eating on Earth. Image Credit: Fred Sayers

    Astronauts basically do the same thing when they go to space. Preparation varies with the food type. Some foods can be eaten in their natural forms, such as brownies and fruit. Other foods require adding water, such as macaroni and cheese or spaghetti. Of course, an oven is provided in the space station to heat foods to the proper temperature. There are no refrigerators in space, so space food must be stored and prepared properly to avoid spoilage, especially on longer missions.

    Condiments, such as ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, are provided. Salt and pepper are available but only in a liquid form. This is because astronauts can't sprinkle salt and pepper on their food in space. The salt and pepper would simply float away. There is a danger they could clog air vents, contaminate equipment or get stuck in an astronaut's eyes, mouth or nose.

    Astronauts eat three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nutritionists ensure the food astronauts eat provides them with a balanced supply of vitamins and minerals. Calorie requirements differ for astronauts. For instance, a small woman would require only about 1,900 calories a day, while a large man would require about 3,200 calories. There are also many types of foods an astronaut can choose from such as fruits, nuts, peanut butter, chicken, beef, seafood, candy, brownies, etc. Drinks range from coffee, tea, orange juice, fruit punches and lemonade.

    As on Earth, in space food comes in disposable packages. Astronauts must throw their packages away when they are done eating. Some packaging actually prevents food from flying away. The food packaging is designed to be flexible and easier to use, as well as to maximize space when stowing or disposing food containers.

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Additional Resources

  • Fruit, space food packets and a spacewalking astronaut float around a 'Food for Thought' sign in space

    Food for Thought  →

    Visit this site to find educational activities, videos and links related to space food and human spaceflight.

  • Two astronauts watch food floating as they prepare to eat

    Space Food Systems Laboratory

    Food scientists at the Space Food Systems Laboratory work to create nutritious and palatable meals that can withstand the rigors of space flight.

  • NASA Study Finds Storage Impacts Nutrients in Space Food

    NASA Study Finds Storage Impacts Nutrients in Space Food

    Long-duration storage has a more significant impact on the nutritional value of space foods than does spaceflight, a NASA study has found.

  • Astronaut Sandy Magnus

    Cooking in Space

    Astronaut Sandy Magnus puts her culinary skills to work to spice up traditional space food fare aboard the International Space Station.

  • Astronaut Steve Smith enjoys lunch in space

    'Mmm ... Chicken'

    Food offers the comforts of home to astronauts living in space.