First Food in Space: World’s Curiosity on the Evolution of Space Food

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, the first human to explore space took beef and liver paste from a tube, followed by chocolate sauce as dessert in 1961.

Use of food in space expeditions has been a question among all. The generation, that aspires to be astronauts at the beginning of Space Age, would have considered it a daydream after knowing what astronauts actually used to eat during their stay in space. However, astronaut’s foods have improved over recent years whereas a monotonous menu still appears to be a challenge for long-term spaceflight.

After returning to earth, Christina Coch, a female astronaut from NASA, who has spent the longest time in space, got desperate for salsa and chips as she told The Associated Press. According to her, you cannot have crunchy foods on space-suites as those may be hazardous to equipment. 

In 1961, Gagarin’s food was crumb-free and had two-portioned pureed meat preserved carefully in tube-like containers while John Glenn used to have applesauce and sugar tablets, dissolvable in water during his space visit in the following year. Glenn’s meal also featured pureed vegetables and beef in tube which has now been preserved in the National Air and Space Museum.

Source: NASA

During the first era of space expedition, space foods looked more like toothpaste. Throughout the Mercury program, NASA astronauts were allowed to take sucking foods put in tubes whereas freeze-dried bite-sized cubes and powders were available as another option. NASA’s Gemini program allowed astronauts to have solid-ish food and instead of toothpaste-like food, freeze-dried cubes covered in gelatin were served to stop crumbs. Then NASA took an advanced step by putting freeze-dried foods in plastic containers for the convenience of astronauts to carry something palatable such as veggies, chicken or shrimp cocktail.

By NASA’s Apollo mission, things were improved to another level after engineers had brought new developments like “spoon bowl” and hot water. Hot water was convenient for easily reconstituting freeze-dried food whereas spoon bowls made out of plastic bag required to be unzipped for eating food with a spoon. This attempt aimed to create an earthly experience. Freeze-dried foods were commonly used as reducing enough water from food would prevent bacteria from growing and this has also been a popular way of offering food to astronauts during their space expeditions.

By Apollo 17, the menu available to astronauts had improved drastically.

International Space Station has come up with 200 different items on its menu for astronauts and most of them have been made rehydrated. NASA has also taken an initiative to serve astronauts with warm sandwiches at launch for eating them in orbit. As astronauts spend many months in space at a time, a variety of food is tried to be offered to them to keep away the monotony of taking the same food week after week. As shaking pepper and salt for having them with food is prone to create an airborne hazardous situation, foods are served in liquid form.

European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti drinks the first espresso ever brewed in space. The orbiting espresso machine used, dubbed ISSpresso, was developed by an Italian aerospace company and famed coffee maker Lavazza.

Space stations keep on experimenting to cater to the taste buds of astronauts during their stay in space so that they do not feel it monotonous to have liquidized food for a long time.