Former NASA Astronaut Explains How Food Is Different in Space | WIRED

the tragedy of spaceflight is that you can't get pizza I'm Mike Massimino and this is how food is different in space my flights were to the Hubble Space Telescope our job was to repair upgrade refurbish that telescope through a series of spacewalks an hour altitude that Hubble it's about a hundred miles higher than the altitude of the space station so we get to see less detail but we get to see more of the curve of our planet so you see this gigantic ball taking up your field of view and it's it's magnificent so to eat on earth you have to first get your food and I don't live on a farm so I have to go to the grocery store in space it's different the food we have in space is prepared by our cooks our food technologists we have a whole food lab at the Johnson Space Center the way you pick out your food is you go to lunch at the food lab and they give you things to try and you would rate them on a scale of 1 to 9 and so like a brownie score that a nine if you like brownies asparagus which is great that might be a little less than a nine but you still gonna have to eat your vegetables even if you don't like them some of my favorites I really did like the macaroni and cheese I like lasagna tortellini ravioli I like Italian food apparently spaghetti and meatballs were good my only one getting hungry with this she'd never do this around lunchtime I got the other type of meals we have or meals ready to eat more or less that you would find in camp food or the military these are what's called the raid they used to call them irradiated but I think it scared people so then they change it that thermo stabilized I don't know what they did for the irradiated I think the same thing they tried it to scare us and you can warm them up eat those I'm gonna cuddle my Beast as you can see it doesn't look too bad all the ingredients are already in there the only thing you might add is a little bit of spice to it maybe you add some Tabasco or you want some ketchup salt doesn't work because it'll float around so it's liquid salt or liquid pepper that is added to the mean friend of mine he wanted to cater the whole flight and that's like now I can't do that but they allowed us to fly some biscotti from his restaurant what they had to test it so a sample was sent and they tested it and now we get some of our specialty stuff some things that we like I like fluffernutter's and so I got sent up some fluff so I could make my fluffernutter with peanut butter if it was available in the store so if it's something you can buy off the shelf like cookie or a cracker that stuff that's already been checked out that's kind of like good enough you can fly that stuff in space there was pizza flown recently on the space station I don't know what it tasted like I'm very very skeptical but I missed pizza in space on my first space flight mission I ordered pizza from space from a pizzeria in at near the Kennedy Space Center I was able to contact them through email and say this is what we want where's our landing time we would like to deliver to the hotel we were gonna stay at that's how much I miss pizza the other thing you kind of miss is some big to bite into cheeseburger or something like that you know that you get a big sandwich you can't really do that so easily you get a burger and if you want to put it in something you have to put it in in a tortilla we don't have breads that's the thing we're missing bread for the amount of room it takes up it doesn't give you a nutrition you might want and it also provides crumbs and it can go stale and stock the best tortilla is nice and thin you can stack them together you get a couple thousand of them you know in one area and you wrap things in them and they work really well everything that stuff is disgusting I think the reason that there's so much of it in the museums around the world that you can buy it in these little gift shops is because astronauts will not eat it the way we package things on on earth for liquids that can come in a carton or they can come in a bottle you know you have refrigeration so you're gonna fresh meat vegetables frozen foods things can be wrapped with clear app or box or whatever it might be it can be a little air in there without much penalty food that goes into space needs to be compact easy to prepare a nutritious and it needs to taste good because no one wants to eat crappy food in space what's on the menu tonight strawberry shortcake ten years strawberry shortcake really for you Chris food is all processed at the Johnson Space Center for the NASA food items so they try to make it really simple for us so all the food when it's packaged for us it is pretty much ready to go these are rehydratable items so we can actually see what's in there turkey Tetrazzini so it also has velcro on the back so you could stick it to the wall or to your tray or to your leg or whatever you want to stick it to the consistency of these things is important because we you don't want crumbs and you don't want to be losing your food so all of our food items have a little bit of liquidy consistency to them if you were to just like get a bunch of Cheerios on a spoon without any milk and I mean you're gonna be floating around you're gonna be chasing them so that comes with a little bit of dehydrated milk that would be at it and then the Cheerios will stay there's no gravity working on any of this stuff and so the surface tension in the liquid is almost like a glue it is not glue but it's almost like a glue then that surface tension those molecules will stick to the spoon macaroni and cheese spaghetti and meat sauce ravioli even the shrimp cocktail has a sauce to it so that that'll act as the glue so you won't lose this stuff so it all has that liquidy consistency if it doesn't if pretty much have to get in your mouth in one bite like a cookie you know because if you bite into that you create crumbs crumbs are an issue and getting thing floating around getting somebody's eye so you really want to contain it so you don't cause issues with the shuttle program at the beginning of the Space Station program we had individualized menus but you could get what you like that started to be a little bit too problematic now they've gone through more like a standard menu where these are the things available over these six months in each state figure out what you want to have on the space station there is a refrigerator they can use for a small amount of fresh food and a little bit of ice cream we didn't have any refrigeration on the space shuttle when we had fresh food and fresh food means like orange or an apple something like that you needed to eat that stuff in the first couple days and you had to promise your commander that you were gonna heat it because if you did it then went bad and rotten fruit is a problem because we don't have a real good way to dispose of things from the food science part of this we have really smart dieticians they look at what you like plan the meal out so that you had you know the right amount of protein and calories if anything was the caloric intake based on your size I'm a pretty big person compared to most astronauts I got a pretty full set of meals I guess compared to the others I flew with they plan you menu out and I tried to stick to it you know mom's not always there to make sure you're eating your vegetables let's put it that way and you can get carried away on the MMS if necessary yeah I gained weight and spit I was willing a few guys to to gain weight in space I think me and a guy named Mark Lee if you only they were amazed I think what it was as I was in really good shape when I when I went into space I toward the end of the mission I was eating a you know I think a little too much macaroni and cheese quite frankly apparently there's more food than you could ever eat it might not be everything you want to eat no you may run out of the stuff you really like the way we did it on the space shell says it was kind of individualized meals everyone had a color associated with their position in the shuttle like the commander was red the pilot was yellow and my first flight my color was purple and then I was a brat so just about all your stuff your gear has these little dots and colors on it so you know who's who so your checklists and some of your clothing and it has this dot on it and all your food items they put this dot on it so you knew who was it was but then as you become an experienced astronaut you realize that those dots are just sticky dots so if you've run out of shrimp cocktail and let's say your commander has a bunch of them left and you've got asparagus with your dot on it and he's got shrimp cocktail with his on it you can peel I'm not saying ever did this but you can peel those dots off and switch them and now the asparagus has the red dot and shrimp cocktail has the my purple dot on it and that's what was sudden mind and I'm going to eat it breakfast is during our post sleep period scrambled eggs or a sausage patty or granola or a yogurt lunch is kind of as you can get it and then dinner was generally on the shuttle and on the space station as well is more of a community meal where you it's kind of a nice thing to have the interesting thing we learned from the Russian program while we were going to the moon they were working on orbiting laboratory flights like Mir for example and they learned a lot about keeping people in space for a long time and the idea of a community meal and having a table to have a meal around in space for a sense of community was important for morale and for bonding and feeling normal sort of like the way we here on earth we followed their lead in there are tables on the International Space Station that usually have a crew meal or if we didn't have that on the shuttle but we would generally usually have like an evening meal what everyone kind of float near together that was a nice thing to do when we prepare a meal on earth we go to the kitchen typically we're combining ingredients maybe a little water mixing things so you need a lovin or microwave or the ability to boil things that's the way of course all of us are used to cooking on earth in space it's different you might notice there's all sorts of foods here it's like opening the refrigerator you got all your different stuff that you want to have drinks meats eggs vegetables cereals cooking in space your food is in what we call a storage locker if you're gonna have breakfast you might say well okay and want a bag of coffee and you might say oh I want some eggs today so I might have I like the Mexican scrambled eggs that was really good and so you get all you little you'll get your breakfast togetherness there's gonna be pouches of stuff the rehydratable food at the top of the package is a valve the valve has got a piece of foil above it the valve is the same for the food or for the drink package and there's a needle that's sticking out from the water source of the galley the needle puncture is a foil at the top of the valve and it tells you how much to add like 5 milliliters so you choose hot or cold by punching the right button and Red's now good idea in space cuz that's more for emergency so blue is cold and yellow is that is the warm water and then the water is delivered through the needle into the packaging so I'll give you a suggestion like this much more to ten minutes and that means don't eat the thing for ten minutes let it soak up the water and if you want to warm it up a little more because the hot water even isn't really that hot you put it in the food warmer in the oven for a little while and that heats it tastebuds still work in space but you tend to be a little stuffy in space because your bodily fluid is held in position by gravity on earth in space it tends to pull to the upper extremity including your head I like Tabasco and spicy things what I even notice some of my crewmates they wanted a little more spice on your food and space because you're not smelling as well and you're a little stuffy maybe and so that helps clear you up so I think Tabasco isn't it's very important in space travel eating on earth we're pretty much familiar with that using silverware napkin your foods on a plate and you can put wherever you want where and we'll stay there so that's what it's like on earth we've all done that well in space it's different cutting things is not as easy to do in space things are floating around typically the food is something that if it needs to be broken up you can break it up with your spoon the spoon is the most useful utensil to have I'd never used a fork or a knife up there to eat just the spoon everything just came out with this bone you need a scissor nearby so you can cut open the bag carefully cut it open away from the velcro because you want to keep your velcro grab your long spoon because it's a long container each inside chocolate pudding cake so what you can do instead of arranging your food on a plate in you know the separate pieces of food here and there what you can do is arrange them with the velcro because each one of the food items packaging has velcro on it and your tray has velcro to so you can do it that way here's a cup of coffee for the drinks go through that same hole you insert now a straw stick my straw I mix it up and it has a lock on it and the reason it has a lock on it is that after you finish taking a drink you'll lock the straw if you do not lock your straw there is the possibility of that liquid getting out of the top of the straw now I can come out of there and I was hitting the eye with a drop of hot coffee because one of my crewmates didn't block their straw the way liquid behaves in space it forms a bubble it'll hit something against splatter but when it's floating around it's more or less a bubble one of my friends got up you can play with water you got to be careful but he got a pretty big bowl of water going and he put a Swedish fish to the side of every head like an aquarium floating around but locking the straw is a sign of a good astronaut chocolate cake and coffee foods not so bad so just like on earth when you're done eating in space you gotta clean up the packaging now that had food and it no longer contains food so that stuff has to be dealt with that is normally considered to be wet trash separator wet trash from our dry trash so what trash is smelly clean off your utensils you generally look them clean as best you could you just to make sure you could take like a handy wipe clean it off as best you can and then you would throw that handy wipe in the wet trash much easier to clean up in space than on earth so put her like trash in these waterproof bags on the space shuttle the trash we would compact it as best we could and then we would have to take it home you couldn't throw that stuff out into space so we would put that in our trash area which was generally under the floor on the space station that's different there's cargo ships that go up to the space station that deliver cargo and they get emptied out all the cargo comes out and then some of those spaceships do return to earth but others burn up in reentry there one use spacecraft so all your trash will go in though is kind of like a dumpster and then that gets sealed up undocks and will burn up in the atmosphere so that's the way you deal with trash on the space station we more or less bring all of our food with us from Earth and that's works pretty well right now but for the future I think it's gonna be required to somehow be able to create food as you're on your journey growing food is something that we've experimented with on the space station we have been able to grow lettuce you can eat in space and this is a think very important technology development on the space station and is going to be necessary if we're gonna be traveling in space long distances because you're not going to be able to bring all the food you need for long journeys into space so I think this is pretty important work to be able to figure out ways to create food on your journeys that are going to be longer in the future growing food in space there's been a lot of research done even some of my students at Columbia have done this where are you trying to see what does a plant need to grow in space you have limited water so looking at ways to grow food with limited water aeroponics hydroponics is a study of doing those things is also bigger facilities that are experimenting in those techniques on the ground they have applications not only for space but also for the world where there is a lack of clean water or a lack of good soil being able to create food in places around the world where it's hard to do that that's a nice spin-off of space technology food is really important in space travel and a lot of people think that we're eating out of tubes or even stuff that isn't pleasant I think it was a case maybe the earliest parts of the space program but it's more than just nutrition we have to remember that we're still human and as you go on these longer voyages away from home being able to take a little bit of what you're used to from home from Earth with you is important and so that is the foods we like to eat in the sharing of the meals with friends those are really important things it's not just the nutrition it's also the psychological benefit that you get food is important on earth and in space astronaut ice cream I think is more closely related to a building material than it is to a food I think it is something you might use to repair a wall you know we said oh I want to go to space so badly I'll need anything and then you'd put that ice cream in front of people anybody I'm gonna find another occupation people are not going to eat that stuff who are adults and go to space

46 thoughts on “Former NASA Astronaut Explains How Food Is Different in Space | WIRED

  1. I ate a small astronaut ice cream sandwich for 6 euro and the white inside tasted like meringue with a metal taste and the wafer was like Styrofoam.

  2. “In space”…”IN ORBIT “…”on the moon”… Basically names of west coast AirForce Basses…/ Secret Movie studios…. NASA is a lie, “Space” is a hoax…

  3. is solar power the only power source ? or is muscle building inside the ship wired to a battery and re used ? what is the temperature onboard ? afraid of heights does that still happen in space ?

  4. It's interesting that at 10:03 you can see the radiation damage to the camera (the bright white spots)… it's so easy to damage transistors in space.. very impressive how they radiation harden their computer chips

  5. Quite interesting, but I'll prefer to eat on Earth, thank you very much. It's great that they don't dispose of the waste in outer space and that, instead, it gets brought down for proper disposal on Earth.

  6. The most important thing I learned in this video is that the space station regularly creates orbital dumpster fires.

  7. Ya, it’s cgi food in an augmented virtual reality environment, rendered and displayed on a screen. Way different than real food.

  8. I always like the reserved and educated but enthusiastic tone that all astronauts seem to have. They are such well rounded people.

  9. Mike Massimino — what a goofball! In a good way, that is! I guess he has no plans to fly again…keep eatin’ too much pizza, he’ll never fit in one of these “new fangled” capsules! 🙂

  10. neat how the weakest of forces like surface tension become relevant in the absence of substantial gravity

  11. “On Earth you can do doggy, missionary, and even the Chinese pretzel.”

    “But in space…It’s different.”

  12. Holy Crap! I didn't realize Mike was a real astronaut. I thought he was just a paid actor on the Big Bang Theory. Another cameo I wasn't aware of.

  13. I had astronaut ice cream once. It was okay. Would I eat it again? Maybe. Would I look forward to it? Not on your life.

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