Space Diner: What It’s Like to Eat in Space

Keeping up a healthy lifestyle is paramount for the mission’s success if you are an astronaut. Researchers from the international space agencies have put in hefty sums of investments to supply our space voyagers with the most nutritional food available. Moreover, astronauts are also handed state-of-the-art equipment to monitor their daily food consumption to determine vital dietary variables such as proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and calories, among many others.

Space-living indeed has its cons, and one of them is coping with microgravity and essential weightlessness. It could lead to bone and muscle deterioration; therefore, keeping up or maintaining body mass for astronauts is a mission objective in itself. However, living away from our home planet may present a problem in hindering astronauts from eating properly.

Having an inadequate food system can prove to be detrimental in space-living. After all, the consequences of malnutrition in zero gravity can lead to alarming health issues. Menu fatigue can slowly creep to a certain degree if astronauts keep eating the same thing over and over again, and it is likely to worsen in longer missions.

Menu Fatigue

Dr. Grace Douglas, along with other top researchers in the Advanced Food Technology project, has been given credit by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in spearheading the study in probing menu fatigue — does eating the same menu items in prolonged space flight affect the appeal of food?

As of now, Douglas and her team have been systematically collecting real-time data throughout space flight missions regarding food acceptability. These findings will help determine or at the very least provide insights about future strategies in food system designs in space missions.

For their research, a group of astronauts in the International Space Station or ISS was picked for a weekly survey. There, they would rate their acceptability of beverages and food they consume during mealtimes. What exactly is food acceptability? Flavor, texture, aroma, and overall appearance, among others, are part of the consideration of food acceptability. Douglas and her team have focused their investments in researching these variables on at least 13 astronauts.

So far, the collected data on the study shows that it essentially boils down to personal food preference, but more variety in the menu is key.

What’s on the Menu?

Nowadays, the ISS has been inhabited by some of the greatest scientists in our society. They dwell in the habitable satellite for weeks and some even months. So, what do they eat up there? What’s their diet like?

To put it simply, although astronauts have specialized diets, they still share similarities in our diets here on earth. To combat menu fatigue, they have more than one hundred items in their supply. Condiments are also part of the ISS’s investments, which can be a major plus, considering most of their meals are pre-prepared meals. However, fruits and vegetables are still a must. Some of the astronauts even develop a green thumb, so consuming fresh produce in the ISS is definitely a possibility.

Our space dwellers typically eat three times a day and have snacks in between, but the most important thing is that they should at least consume 2,500 calories per day. Their vast menu is pre-planned, and the astronauts themselves determine which food to bring in space. However, the credit still lies in Mission Control for ensuring top-quality food to ensure proper nutritional intake.

Space Delivery

Just like on Earth, there are times that you get tired of eating home-prepared meals. Luckily, food deliveries are just a phone call away. In probably one of the best marketing campaigns done by any restaurant chain in history, Pizza Hut delivered their first pie onboard the ISS back in 2001. Talk about defeating menu fatigue. Nothing beats a slice or two of a classic pepperoni pizza.