Canadian Food for the International Space Station

Food is an important aspect of human spaceflight. Psychological research conducted on crews in isolated environments similar to that of the International Space Station (ISS) has shown that food variety, quality and quantity greatly affect the performance and overall well-being of the crews. A variety of food choices during missions helps maintain morale and lessens the occurrence of boredom, decreased appetite and poor nutrition.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Russian space agency are each responsible for supplying 50% of the food for ISS crews; however, astronauts from the other international partner countries also contribute food items to the ISS menu. Each country has the opportunity to contribute foods that reflect their national identity and culture.

Over the course of several space missions the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has added a number of Canadian foods to on-orbit menus. These items not only represented Canadian identity, they also met NASA's criteria for nutritional value and proper storage. Canadian astronauts have enjoyed Canadian Girl Guide cookies, pacific smoked salmon, maple sugar candy and musk-ox jerky, among many other treats. Have a look at both Julie Payette's and Bob Thirsk's recent space menus.

The Canasnack

In 2007, the CSA collaborated with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to develop an original space cookie called the Canasnack. A product of thorough research, it met all of NASA's criteria, including shelf-life, packaging and nutritional value. It also had a convenient bite-sized shape, ensuring no crumbs on orbit.

The Canasnack consisted of an oat-flour top, a cream filling and an oat-flour base. The filling used concentrates of real fruit. Five flavours were developed: cranberry cream, blueberry cream, maple cream, honey biscuit with blueberry cream, and sweet and salty blueberry cream. All of the ingredients were either Canadian or representative of Canada.

The Canasnack made its debut during Shuttle Mission STS-118. CSA Astronaut Dave Williams shared this uniquely Canadian confection with his crewmates on board Space Shuttle Endeavour. After a post-mission news conference in which Williams gave a ringing endorsement for the treat, demand for the cookie surged. 10, 000 were requested for the 2007 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair—a number that far exceeded the AAFC's capacity to support. Samples were provided to a lucky few, but there has been no mass production of the tasty Canasnack—yet.

In 2009, the Canasnack returned to space on Shuttle Missions STS-125 and STS-127, proving that its popularity endures.