I am not a Trekie or exceptionally big Star Wars fan, but I am a total Shuttlephile. I would always save my money to buy the Astronaut Ice Cream at the gift shop when we would visit the science museums. At a young age I was never particularly a very good student (much to the chagrin of my Dad having to work hard to pay for private schooling I am sure), until someone pointed out to me the fact that the Space Shuttle had an awful lot to do with both Math and Science—after that I was sold on academics.
According to NASA, none of the food that astronauts eat is peculiar and a lot of it can even be found on a grocery store shelf—but the packaging is, well, cosmic. Now, if you are not into vegetables, but you are into Space Exploration, be sure that NASA is going to make your Mom proud and ensure that you get all of your nutrients; Shuttle crew members do get to pick their menu items though.
They plan a breakfast, lunch and dinner; snacks are listed with the meals. Types of food available include rehydratable, thermostabilized, irradiated and natural form items. Rehydratable items include both foods and beverages. One way to conserve weight during launch is to remove water from certain food items. During the flight, water generated by the shuttle fuel cells is added back to the food just before it is eaten ("Space food," 2006).
“Food affects morale.” Astronaut Mike Massimino click here to see video
Of course the first man to experience three spatial dimensions of food as it floated around was John Glenn. The menu and amenities improved past the Mercury Program until the Space Shuttle Program started in 1981. The Space Shuttle galley (aka kitchen and dining area) is on the mid deck. It has a water dispenser and an oven to heat the space techno-packaging that is required to eat in space. As you can imagine there is some pretty technical stuff inside the Space Shuttle so things like crumbs getting into the panels or spilt liquids are a big deal.
During a typical meal in space, a meal tray is used to hold the food containers. The tray can be attached to an astronaut's lap by a strap or attached to a wall. The meal tray becomes the astronaut's dinner plate and enables him or her to choose from several foods at once, just like a meal at home. Without the tray, the contents of one container must be completely consumed before opening another. The tray also holds the food packages in place and keeps them from floating away in the microgravity of space. Conventional eating utensils are used in space. Astronauts use knife, fork, and spoon. The only unusual eating utensil is a pair of scissors used for cutting open the packages (Dismukes , 2002).
The final dinner on the final Shuttle Mission (STS-135, 08 Jul-21 Jul 2012), the Shuttle Crew ate an “All-American meal.” As a matter of fact, if you are playing along with the home game, you can get their entire mission menu here or try to recreate it at home with this “formulation” which is NASA kitchen speak for “recipe.”
"Since the crew is launching in July, we thought it would be fun to have a typical summer meal often enjoyed in our backyards with friends and family," said Michele Perchonok, NASA food scientist and manager of the shuttle food system. The crew’s American menu begins with crackers, brie cheese and sausage. The entrée features grilled chicken, Southwestern corn and baked beans. The meal concludes with the quintessential American dessert—apple pie ("Special American meal," 2011).
When you are planning food for the crew of the most expensive and most complicated machine ever built, it is good to know that you can still get a taste of home. I am not sure if generic menu items like “candy covered chocolates” are cover terms for M&M’s®, but I know I certainly would not want to leave earth without a package of them somewhere on board. (Look closely at the photo below)
Welcome home Space Shuttle Discovery and congratulations to 39 successful flights by the 252 crew members.
Pro Deo et Patria
Space Shuttle from NASA (Silverware overlays modified by Pantry Paratus)
Astronaut Brian Duffy STS-92 mission commander from NASA
Astronaut Food from NASA
Astronaut Richard A. Searfoss, STS-90 mission commander from NASA
Space Shuttle Flying Piggy Back Past Reagan International Airport by NASA
NASA, (2006). Space food (FS-2006-11-029-JSC). Retrieved from website: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/pdf/167750main_FS_SpaceFood508c.pdf
Dismukes , K. (2002, July 4). Food for space flight Retrieved from http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/reference/factsheets/food.html
Special American meal planned for final space shuttle crew. (2011, July 08). Retrieved from http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts135/american_meal.html
Links for further "Discovery:"
Inventions that came from the Space Program: http://curiosity.discovery.com/topic/physics-concepts-and-definitions/ten-nasa-inventions.htm
Video of the Shuttle fly over (mounted on top of a modified 747) the DC area this morning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilZMXxa7ovI
Food For Space Flight: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/reference/factsheets/food.html
Inside the NASA kitchen: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts135/american_meal.html
Interesting Space Shuttle facts: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/566250main_SHUTTLE%20ERA%20FACTS_040412.pdf
More on space food: