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NASAs photographic history of food in space

first_imgThe unsung heroes of the glamorous world of NASA are surely the ones who toil away all day studying the differences between eating food on Earth and eating food in space. These are people who know what kind of impact traveling between those two environments has on vacuum-sealed meat versus packets of ketchup and mustard, how microgravity affects astronauts’ sense of taste, and how you can help keep those brave men and women both healthy and saneGone are the days when astronauts just rocketed into space with a carton full of Tang (alright, those days never existed, but you get the point) — although the presentation and variety of food has changed substantially over the decades, NASA‘s food scientists have always been meticulous about the function and purpose of its duty to astronauts.Among the requirements of a good space diet are that all items should have “low mass, high quality, and long shelf life.”Everything needs to be just as carefully planned, researched, and executed as the rest of the components of a space flight. Something as seemingly insignificant as a little bit of oxygen trapped within the packaging can cause a significant problem.Of course, these specifications have been refined over the years, and the flexibility of offerings has increased right alongside. Today, astronauts are sent up with real food and condiments created for mass consumption, not just concoctions created in NASA laboratories.Certain elements, like beverages, are still very specialized, but packets of Heinz mustard can go up with an astronaut, no questions asked. Backtrack to the days of the Apollo missions, and the seemingly nondescript sealed plastic bags of mush don’t look so appetizing.And looking to the future, NASA wants to come up with a more strict set of food guidelines, most notably that all products should have a shelf life of three to five years. Because, among other reasons, the days of space travel to Mars are actually, realistically within reach, there needs to be a very robust understanding of what can be taken into space for long-haul journeys.The project, known as the Advanced Food Technology Project (AFT), has looked at a wide variety of foodstuffs, from flourless peanut butter cookies to African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup. So, you know, it’s come a long way since the days of Tang.[image credit: NASA]last_img read more

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