An astronaut’s gotta eat, right? Or a curious Earthling/wannabe space explorer wants to know what cooking and dining is like in space. Whichever you are, we bring you the lowdown on what it's like using what little of a "kitchen" you can have in space, and what kind of foods you can prepare and consume in space.
1. Cookies are the first foods to be baked in space!
Yes, you can have cookies in space!
NASA baked cookies for the first time back in 2019, in a special zero-gravity oven and then sent the cookies back home to Earth. The aim of this was to study whether the cookies from this experiment were safe to eat, and figure how cooking can be done for "long-haul trips".
Ovens in space don't work the same way as ovens in our gravity-bound homes. So if they do find a way to make working ovens in space, we can have a piece of home — yummy, gooey, chocolatey pieces away from home!
2. Gravity keeps things in place
Because of gravity on Earth, liquids and solids stay where they belong. In cabinets, drawers, sinks, the trash, bowls, cups, etc. No mess to clean up unless you spill it. In space and mini-gravity situations, everything floats and you're gonna need extra effort to keep your meals down. In space, you're going to have to improvise.
An astronaut wrote on her blog that classic duct tape and plastic bags pretty much solves everything. Pieces of food waste can be stuck to the tape then discarded. Food is also handled (cut, squeezed, peeled) inside plastic bags without removing them from the bags. This is to keep the foods from spilling and floating around.
It's very practical to keep those things handy at home or in space. Bring as much as you can from Earth as there are no grocery stores or shopping malls in space.
3. Cooking in Space
Foods that can be prepared in space, with what little equipment you have include basics such as soybeans, peanuts, spinach, cabbage, lettuce and rice. Meats include chicken, beef and seafood. Tumeric chicken and whole red rice are also possible for a decent meal. For the more adventurous, you can have mackerel, quinoa, and leek cream tortilla. Dessert can include fruits, nuts, peanut butter, candy, and brownies (mmm!).
Astronauts pre-plan their meals and choose from a menu available, before leaving the Earth's atmosphere. Think of it as dining in your everyday restaurant. Except you'll be floating in the air and the experience would be…… out of this world!
4. Eating may feel different in space
Your taste buds and biological process will not work the same way away from the Earth's atmosphere, climate and gravity!
Bones may weaken upon returning to Earth due to decreased bone density and muscle mass. High-calcium foods are thus very important.
You are also more likely to get a head cold or a blocked nose in space because our bodily fluids will be floating inside us more liberally. Foods may taste bland because of this, just like how airplane meals taste lame in a high altitude. But don't let that stop you from getting the nutrition you need. Astronauts can put up to 2500 calories a day. Go, feast boldly!
5. Not Everything is stored in Packages or Dehydrated
Anything convenient and travel-friendly is welcome. Zip lock bags, retort pouches and cans are hungry astronaut's best friends. Dehydrated foods can be rehydrated with water guns from water stations. Food is prepared in microwaves and ovens. Anything easy, safe and does not take up too much space and time to pack checks out!
The mission team will keep track of what you are eating when you scan the barcodes on the back of a food package before opening it. Count on them to keep you on a space-friendly diet that will make returning to Earth all the more easier!
Still keen on space travel? It's not going to be easy and it's far from glamorous up there, but being prepared and educated can make anything less scary and more exciting!