Close Encounters of the Tasty Kind
Duration: 60 minutes
When we send Canadian food products to space, we must ensure it meets all space flight requirements. In addition to meeting requirements, the food must taste great and increase variety to the food selection aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Recommended properties for space food
- Not carbonated (not bubbly or fizzy)
- Not crumbly or brittle
- Food is chewy, sticky, thick, spicy, or flavourful
- No strong or potent odours
- Unique (the item is different from the standard ISS menu items to increase variety)
Food packaging and processing for space flight
Foods packaged or processed in the following ways are best for space flight:
- Not packaged in glass
- Small quantity packages
- Lightweight (dehydrated or naturally lightweight)
- Shelf-stable at room temperature for a minimum of 12 months
Sensory evaluation of food is very important when identifying foods to send to space. It allows us to rank foods depending on their texture, appearance, taste, and smell. Sensory evaluation involves using the five senses (sight, touch, taste, hearing, smell) to analyze various food products.
With every food item we eat, we use sensory evaluation without realizing it! For example, when you eat soup, you may notice:
- Aroma—does it smell savoury?
- Appearance—does it have chunks of vegetables or meat? What colour is it?
- Texture—is the soup creamy? Thick? Thin & watery?
- Taste—is it salty? Sweet?
- Sound—are you slurping the soup?
For sensory evaluation, special descriptive words are used for texture, appearance, taste, and smell in order to be as detailed and accurate as possible. More information about space food can be found on Canadian Space Agency's website.
In this activity, participants can learn about sensory evaluation and its importance in selecting food for space. Participants can perform a sensory evaluation of various food items to determine which ones would qualify for space flight. Participants can evaluate foods based on the texture, packaging, and appearance.
After presenting a lesson using the background information, organize the participants into four groups. Have each group wash their hands. Each group will be given a collection of food items. As a group, they will assess each item and decide whether or not it is suitable for astronauts on the ISS. Each group will write down their assessment for each item on the activity worksheet. When the activity is completed, invite one group to present their assessments to the class.
It is not necessary for the participants to taste or eat the foods, but if participants will be tasting or eating the items, they must fill out an allergen declaration form in advance.
If there are concerns about allergens, certain items can be omitted from the activity or substituted.
Alternative activity (no cost)
In groups, participants assess the items in their lunch bags and decide whether or not they are suitable for astronauts on the ISS. Each group will write down the items in their lunches and complete the evaluation sheet. When the activity is completed, invite one group to present their assessments to the class.
|Lesson using background information||20 minutes|
|Explanation of activity||5 minutes|
|Group activity||20 minutes|
|One group presents to class||10 minutes|
|Wrap-up & clean-up||5 minutes|
Materials for class size of 24 participants
Food items for evaluation
- Four cans of tuna
- Whole grain crackers
- Four cans of sodium-reduced soup (any flavour)
- Unsweetened dried fruits
- Cans or bottles of sparkling water (any flavour)
- Activity worksheet
- Food items have been purchased and are in classroom.
- Arrange food items into four groups (one of each item per group). For the dried fruits and crackers, place a few of each into bowls or plates.
- Four student activity sheets printed (food item activity sheet, lunch activity sheet, or both)
Potential activity cost (prices taken from Walmart.ca)
|Item (examples of products; these specific items are not required)||Each||In quantities of four, where applicable|
|Chunk light tuna, 170 g||$1.17||$4.68|
|Brown rice crackers, 100 g||$1.97||$1.97|
|Cream of celery condensed soup||$0.67||$2.68|
|Unsweetened dried apricots||$3.97||$3.97|
|Flavoured sparkling water, 8 × 355 mL (before tax)||$2.97||$2.97|
Additional optional costs (if tasting or eating)
|Utensils, eco-friendly compostable||$5.99|
|Napkins, 25 pack||$1.69|
|Disposable cups, 50||$1.00|
|Total with foods||$26.20|
Download the participant handout 1 (PDF, 586 KB)
Download the participant handout 2 (PDF, 427 KB)
Download the allergen declaration form (PDF, 365 KB)
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