Astronaut Food – What do space explorers eat?
2019-11-01 - Astronauts are extremely fit and healthy people. When you're in orbit, exercising and eating well help you stay in good physical and mental shape. This illustration gives an overview of what food they eat in space and how they prepare it. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)
Currently, astronauts who go to space spend their time aboard the International Space Station (ISS). There is no fridge or freezer up there, no stove or dishwasher, and if you're not careful while prepping your meal, the food will float away! So, what and how do astronauts eat?
Ideal foods for space meet these criteria
- Not crumbly
Six types of food are consumed on the ISS, but only five can be stored long-term.
- Fresh: Must be eaten within days of arrival
- Natural form: Can be eaten as is
- Dried: Low-moisture foods with a long shelf life
- Irradiated: Treated with radiation to extend shelf life
- Dehydrated: Water has been removed to extend shelf life
- Thermostabilized: Heat processed, often under pressure, to extend shelf life
On the menu
There are more than 200 food and drink options on the ISS's standard menu. Here's a small sample:
- Juice: Add water and sip through the special straw
- Scrambled eggs: Pre-cooked, just rehydrate
- Tortillas: Fill and go – no crumbs!
- Shrimp cocktail: Spicy! Adds kick to the meal
- Carrots: Fresh veggies are a rare treat in space
- Dried apricots: A handy, no-prep snack
- Beef steak: Irradiated for a long shelf life
- Chocolate pudding: This tasty indulgence sticks to the spoon
Food scientists on Earth prepare and package all food items in a form that is as ready-to-eat as possible, and label all packages. The final preparation steps are carried out in space.
Food prep in space
- Rehydrate: Room temperature water and hot water is supplied through a dispenser.
- Reheat: The conduction oven can heat food up to 82 ºC (180 ºF).
- Open: Scissors are essential for a hungry astronaut!
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