Educator Features

A Matter of Taste
07.18.03
Astronauts enjoying food
Astronauts enjoying tasty tidbits
Space has always been full of mysteries. People have researched space. People have explored space. Many questions have been answered. We learn more about space with every trip we take. There are still a lot of questions to answer. One question is: why doesn't food taste the same in space?

People who live in space have said that food is not the same in space. Some astronauts say it tastes bland when they are in orbit. Some do not like their favorite foods. Some love to eat foods they would never eat on Earth. Some crew members say they can't tell any difference. Why? NASA has some clues. But, no one is completely sure.

Astronauts like to talk about food. Ask two crew members about food. You might get six answers! One astronaut said that he could not tell any difference. He didn't even lose weight while he was on the Space Station. An astronaut on the same trip said he thought the shrimp cocktail wasn't as spicy.

Something that might cause this problem is "stuffy head." This is something that happens to people in microgravity. Their head gets stopped up. This happens because blood collects in the upper part of the body. Astronauts have their own ideas. One thinks it is because the food is stored so long before it is used. Some of the meals are put on the Space Shuttle months before the trip. Another astronaut thinks that things might start to taste different because they have to eat the same foods over and over.

ISS food preparation
Preparing food onboard the ISS
Peggy Whitson said that her food favorites changed during her time on the Space Station. She didn't get tired of peanut butter. She doesn't even eat peanut butter when she is on Earth. She found this very interesting. Finding a food you like can be good. Finding out you don't like something can be bad. All meals are packed before ever leaving Earth. What if your tastes change? You may be stuck with foods you don't like for the whole trip!

Menus for the Space Station are repeated every 8 days. When astronauts pick a meal, they end up eating that meal over and over. What if they don't like the food once they are in space? They are stuck! That happened to Whitson. Shrimp is one of her favorite foods. She put it on her menus a lot. Once she got to the Station, however, she found that she couldn't stand it. She was lucky. The cosmonauts really liked the shrimp. They traded meals with her so she would have other things to eat.

Some astronauts like to pick spicier meals. This helps make up for the bland food. One astronaut ate shrimp cocktail with every meal during his spaceflights. He liked the spicy flavor! He is the same astronaut who ate the other crew members' leftovers. Astronauts also love salsa. It helps to add a spicy favor to the food. Some of the crew will only pick foods that taste good with salsa.

We may find an answer to why food tastes the way it does in space. Until then, there's always salsa.

NASAexplores - A Matter of Taste
K-4 Lesson Plans

+ View Web site