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No Pizza in Space?
01.29.04
 
Eating in Space
Image above: Astronaut Eating in Space
In the past, space food was not that great. Astronauts had to eat dried food from metal tubes that squeezed out like toothpaste. It was not very tasty. Space food has become more like the food we eat on Earth.

Planning food for a space flight can be tricky. Fresh fruits and vegetables have to remain at room temperature. This limits how much can be taken. Fortunately, the Space Shuttle makes its own water. The water is used to rehydrate the food and drinks. The food can only be heated to room temperature.

Eating the right foods keeps us healthy. A good diet keeps astronauts in good shape. It is the job of the meal planners at Johnson Space Center's Space Food Systems Laboratory to create healthy meals for astronauts. They use the same food pyramid guide we use here on Earth. "We use caloric requirements based on a World Health Organization equation," says Vickie Kloeris, sub-system manager for Shuttle and International Space Station food. Astronauts have their own meal plan for space travel. This plan is based on their height and weight. The body uses nutrients differently in space. Astronauts burn fewer calories. Iron is used differently in the body. The meal planners allow for these changes in planning meals.

The astronauts pick their food from a list. The items range from spaghetti to fruit salad. Their choices are wrapped and stored in the galley area.

Water is added to their dry food at the rehydration station. A special oven warms their food to 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius). This does not cook the food, only warms it. There is not a refrigerator on the Space Shuttle. Food is stored at room temperature. There is a very small chiller on board. There isn't room for much.

A few items just don't work in space, Kloeris says. Soft drinks don't work because of microgravity. Ice cream can't go up without freezers. Pizzas have not been perfected yet. Beyond that, astronauts can eat anything you might order from a typical menu.

Cleanup is no fun, even in space. Plates and wrappers are disposable. The forks, spoons, and knives are washed using wet wipes.

"Astronauts are people," Kloeris says. "They have likes and dislikes and we try to meet their preferences." Astronauts are staying in space longer and need tasty nutritious meals.


GLOSSARY

Calorie - a unit for measuring the energy that food supplies to the body.

Microgravity - the condition of near-weightlessness induced by free fall or unpowered space flight.

Nutrient - any substance or matter that is needed for the life and growth of living things. Proteins, minerals, and vitamins are nutrients.

Rehydrate - re-adding water to a food item.


Published by NASAexplores