Space food is a type of food product produced by and processed for the consumption by astronauts in outer space. The foods which are prepared for this purpose should be having specific requirements and they must be light and less in mass so that low consumption should result in the yield of high energy and less waste is to be removed from body.
In recent years, space food has been used by various nations engaging in space programmes as a way to share and show off their cultural identity and facilitate intercultural communication. Although astronauts consume a wide variety of foods and beverages in space, the initial idea from the man in space committee of the space science board in 1963 was to supply astronauts with formula diet that would supply all the needed vitamins and nutrients.
Nowadays the quality and the quantity of space food have been increased due to vast and vigorous development in the techniques. People who are going to space can have the same food as that they were having on earth. So science has developed a lot in finding new inventions and developing technologies. These technologies were based on continuous year-wise researches and the hard efforts on study of microbiology and food science also the engineering properties of food materials and so on.
As we reach the end of 2019, the present scenario suggests that even people can reach and start their life on the mars and moon. The growth of science is too fast because we have got much talented scientists and faculties working under this field. For a man, the primary thing is food, so any kind of migration will be based on food and availability of water.
For launch on Vostok 1 (1961), Yuri Gagarin ate three 160g toothpaste tubes which contained serving of pureed meat and one which contained chocolate sauce. In August 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov became the first human to experience space sickness on Vostok 2; he holds the record for being the first person to vomit in space. According to Lane and feedback, this event heralded the need for space flight nutrition.
Astronauts in later Mercury missions (1959-1963) disliked the food that was provided. They ate bite sized cubes, freeze dried powders, and tubes of semi liquids. The astronauts found it unappetising, experienced difficulties in rehydrating the freeze dried foods and did not like having to squeeze tubes or collect crumbs. Prior to the mission, the astronauts were also fed low residual launch day breakfast, to reduce the chances that they would defecate in flight.
In the Gemini and Apollo project (1965-1975), several food issues from the Mercury missions were addressed for the later Gemini missions (1965–1966). Tubes (often heavier than the foods they contained) were abandoned. Gelatin coatings helped to prevent bite-sized cubes from crumbling. Simpler rehydration methods were developed. The menus also expanded to include items such as shrimp cocktail, chicken and vegetables, toast squares, butterscotch pudding, and apple juice.
Prior to Apollo programme (1968-1975) early space food development was conducted at the US Air Force school of aerospace medicine and the Natick army labs. The variety of food options continued to expand Apollo mission. Skylab (1973-1974): Larger living areas on the skylab space stations allowed for an on-board refrigerator and freezer which allowed perishable and frozen items to be stored and made microgravity the primary obstacle.
About 72 items were carried to space including shrimp cocktail and butter cookies with consistent favourites. An arrangement was made for having food like dining table and freezer.
Modern space foods
Today, fruits and vegetables that can be safely stored at room temperature are eaten on space flights. Astronauts also have a greater variety of main courses to choose and many request personalised menus from lists available – foods including items like fruit salad and spaghetti. Astronauts who need beef food were also provided.
Processing of space food
Designing food for consumption in space is an often difficult process. Foods must meet a number of criteria to be considered fit for space. Firstly, the food must be physiologically appropriate. Specifically, it must be nutritious, easily digestible, and palatable. Secondly, the food must be engineered for consumption in a zero gravity environment. As such, the food must be light, well packaged, and fast to serve and require minimal cleaning up (Foods that tend to leave crumbs, for example, are ill-suited for space). Finally, foods require a minimum of energy expenditure throughout their use; they must store well, open easily and leave little waste behind.
While having carbonated food in space it will not be suitable for the microgravity or zero gravity atmosphere so that the person who is having the drink will be facing vomiting called “Wet burping.” Nowadays beer has also been developed that counteracts the reduction of taste and smell reception in space and reduces the possibility of wet belches (vomiting caused by belching) in microgravity. Like in present scenario we have been watching that space foods are so much technologised that whatever the food that is prepared on the earth can be produced in the outer space. Advancement in food packaging, preservation, preparation and nutrient to meet challenges of space resulted in many commercial products.
Nutrition in space
Menus are designed to meet each individual’s nutritional needs and Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for vitamins and minerals. Scientists use a formula for Basal Energy Expenditure (BEE) provided by the National Research Council to determine individual caloric requirements:
- For women, BEE = 655 + (9.6 × W) + (1.7 × H) – (4.7 × A).
- For men, BEE = 66 + (13.7 ×W) + (5 × H) – (6.8 ×A)
W = weight in kilogram, H = height in centimetre and A = age in years
Types of space foods
Since the beginning of space mission, different types of space foods were consumed by the astronauts. There is a recent advancement in the types of space foods also and the same has been explained in the forthcoming section:
Currently scientists take advantage of material such as Mylar Aclar and polyethylene to create flexible containers and pouches as well as sticking to old standards like foil pouches and aluminium for cans. Each package is given a barcode and coloured fabric fastener dots. The dots colour match crew member with his or her menu items. For shuttle, the food package weight is about 0.5 pounds per person, per day.
- Shuttle foods = min. 6 month shelf life
- International Space Station = 1 year shelf life
- Mars & other planetary outpost = 5 year shelf life
NASA beverage package is a modified Capri Sun package made from a foil laminate. Rehydratable and bit sized foods are packaged using modified atmospheric techniques. Commercial pouches are used for thermo stabilised and irradiated food. Each package is flushed with nitrogen three times before the final seal at 21 to 29 inches of mercury (Hg) vacuum. The food must be well packaged, quick to serve and must be engineered in a zero gravity environment. Food for astronauts must be compact, lightweight, nutritious, tasty, sticky and shelf-stable.
Today the technologies and the science have grown at the peak so this paved a way to have a simple and great finding in the space foods. So the vast and wise technologies resulted in the finding and invention of the modification of the newer food protection and storage system.
This resulted in drastic change in the satellite mission and space research since people can go and in space do the research in the outer space. The ultimate thing for human is the food modification in that and the storage resulted in the enlargement of the space mission because man can stay in space for long time as the basic facilities are provided.
Still the science is developing fast, it will further stabilise the future researches. The freeze drying and vacuum packaging and the modification in the atmospheric packaging resulted or paved a great way for the people to stay in the outer space and also by this modification the people are now much freer to go to the moon. So the ultimate aim of space food has started giving its output in the way of finding new spaces of the Milky Way similar to that of the earth soon if the food and water can be improved much more or can be saved for years will result even the shifting of the world to any other planet.
(Mahawar and Jalgaonkar are scientists at Horticultural Crop Processing Division, ICAR-CIPHET Abohar, Punjab, and Yengade is food consultant, Binder Technology Consultancy, Navi Mumbai. They can be contacted at [email protected])
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