Photo by: ISS/NASA

ISS/NASA

Celebrating 20 Years of Food in Space on the ISS

This year marks the 20th anniversary of continuous human presence aboard the International Space Station. Do you ever wonder what the astronauts have been eating for the past 20 years in zero gravity? Let’s find out!

September 23, 2020

The History of Space Food

The first American astronaut to eat in space was John H. Glenn in 1962 during the Friendship 7 flight of the Mercury Program. Space food during this time was based on Army survival rations. While he orbited the Earth, his crumb-free meal consisted of applesauce and was packed in a tube. He later consumed pureed beef and vegetables. It was unclear at the time in America if an astronaut could digest food properly in zero gravity. John H. Glenn proved it was possible.

Aluminum tube containing beef and vegetables from Mercury food supplies.

Photo by: NASA

NASA

Aluminum tube containing beef and vegetables from Mercury food supplies.

During Project Gemini, American astronauts were introduced to freeze-dried space food. The astronauts added water to the contents of the packaging prior to eating. Meals consisted of an entrée, vegetable, and dessert. The first consumption of solid food in space was on Gemini 3.

(March 1965 ) --- Food packets for use on the Gemini-3 flight including dehydrated beef pot roast, bacon and egg bites, toasted bread cubes, orange juice and a wet wipe. Water is being inserted into the pouch of dehydrated food.

Photo by: NASA

NASA

(March 1965 ) --- Food packets for use on the Gemini-3 flight including dehydrated beef pot roast, bacon and egg bites, toasted bread cubes, orange juice and a wet wipe. Water is being inserted into the pouch of dehydrated food.

Later, the Apollo missions allowed for more food items to choose from, the option of hot water, and packaging made for spoons. Each meal was designed with nutrition in mind. Served out of packages, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin reportedly ate beef and vegetables, pork with potato scallops, Canadian bacon, and applesauce.

In 1973 during the Skylab Program, the third stage of a Saturn V rocket was transformed into a space station. The space station had a galley in which the astronauts could cook their meals as well as store food in a refrigerator or freezer. During this time, the astronaut’s favorite meal was ice cream. Unfortunately, Skylab marked the end of refrigerators or freezers for long term food storage in space.

Skylab 4 astronaut Edward G. Gibson at the Skylab galley.

Photo by: NASA

NASA

Skylab 4 astronaut Edward G. Gibson at the Skylab galley.

During the Space Shuttle era, astronauts were able to choose meals from an extensive menu provided by NASA Space Food Systems test kitchen in Houston, Texas, before lift-off. These meals were shelf-stable through the process of freeze-drying and thermo-stabilization. No refrigeration needed just like the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo days.

Space Shuttle astronauts had a wide variety of foods available to them. Food shown here includes a space station meal tray with packaged food and drink; different types of space food including beverages, rehydratable food (shrimp cocktail), intermediate moisture (dried apricots, beef tips & mushrooms), natural form and thermostabilized/aseptic fill (peach yogurt, butterscotch pudding); rehydratable beverage (coffee and cream); rehydratable food (shrimp cocktail); and irradiated steak.

Photo by: NASA

NASA

Space Shuttle astronauts had a wide variety of foods available to them. Food shown here includes a space station meal tray with packaged food and drink; different types of space food including beverages, rehydratable food (shrimp cocktail), intermediate moisture (dried apricots, beef tips & mushrooms), natural form and thermostabilized/aseptic fill (peach yogurt, butterscotch pudding); rehydratable beverage (coffee and cream); rehydratable food (shrimp cocktail); and irradiated steak.

What’s for Dinner Tonight on the ISS?

Similar to the space shuttle era, astronauts on the International Space Station consume various shelf-stable foods, except bread. Crumbs are not welcome on the ISS as they can find their way inside the air filtration system and damage equipment. The astronauts have methods for warming their food. They plate their meals within disposable packaging on magnetized trays accompanied with utensils. Some favorite space food items are tortillas, chicken teriyaki, hamburgers, shrimp cocktail, tacos, pasta, peanut butter, cookies, and brownies. Condiments include liquid form salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

STS-98 Pilot Kenneth D. Cockrell preparing breakfast burritos for his crewmates.

Photo by: ISS/NASA

ISS/NASA

STS-98 Pilot Kenneth D. Cockrell preparing breakfast burritos for his crewmates.

Different types of cuisines from all over the world are enjoyed on the ISS as crew members tend to share their country's specialties with one another. Some memorable favorites have been borscht from Russia, macarons from France, and sushi from Japan.

Right: Expedition 55 crewmembers
(left to right) Anton N. Shkaplerov, Oleg G. Artemev, and Norishige Kanai enjoy a sushi dinner.

Photo by: ISS/NASA

ISS/NASA

Right: Expedition 55 crewmembers
(left to right) Anton N. Shkaplerov, Oleg G. Artemev, and Norishige Kanai enjoy a sushi dinner.

In December 2019, for the very first time, a batch of chocolate-chip cookies were oven baked in space by the Expedition 61 crew. Double Tree by Hilton provided the pre-made cookie dough which was launched to the ISS with a Zero G oven from Zero G Kitchen. The astronauts sent their baked space cookies for testing back to Earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

Thanks to the efforts of food scientists and evolving technology, astronauts now have over two hundred diverse food items to choose from as they journey in space.

Next Up

NASA and SpaceX are Going on a Date, and We're All Invited

Save the date--On May 27th, if everything goes as planned, a rocket will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Watch SPACE LAUNCH LIVE: AMERICA RETURNS TO SPACE on Discovery and Science Channel starting at 2P ET.

Large Rocket Debris Impacts Earth Off African Coast

The fourth largest piece of space debris ever re-entered the earth's atmosphere yesterday and made a splash just off the coast of Africa. Narrowly missing some major landmarks in its path, this piece of a rocket could have caused some major damage.

Meet the Not-So-Secret Space Airplane

The United States Space Force may have a somewhat silly name, but it's very, very real. And it just launched a semi-secret mission into space.

Water Molecules Found on Sunlit Surface of the Moon!

Breaking News! At 12P ET today, October 26, NASA announced a new discovery about the Moon. Here are the agency’s findings resulting from the world’s largest airborne observatory, SOFIA.

Expedition 64 to Launch on October 14

One NASA astronaut and two Roscosmos cosmonauts of Expedition 64 are scheduled to launch to the ISS on Wednesday, October 14 at 1:45AM ET for a six month stay. Let’s learn the details!

Looking Down: NASA Astronauts Share Images from Space

From "Space Selfies" and birthday celebrations, to beautiful images of Earth, NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley shared tons content while up at the International Space Station.

World Space Week: Satellites Improve Life

World Space Week is an annual event around the globe and observed in over 90 countries. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Satellites Improve Life.” Let’s take a look back at the early history of satellite launches!

Fly Me to the Moon and Mars: SpaceX’s Starship and Spaceports

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is developing a reusable transportation system for spaceflight to the Moon, Mars, and beyond our wildest space dreams.

SpaceX Crew Dragon Undocked and Ready to Return

NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley return to Earth somewhere in the ocean near Florida after just over two months at the International Space Station. The first step was completed today at around 7:30 P ET, with a successful undocking from ISS. Follow the journey on SPACE LAUNCH LIVE: SPLASHDOWN on Discovery on August 2 starting at 1P ET.

Out of This World! Inside Virgin Galactic's Spacecraft

Buckle up! On July 28, Virgin Galactic is showing the world what the inside of their SpaceShipTwo Unity spacecraft looks like via a livestream on their YouTube channel.
Related To: