How Are Astronaut Meals Prepared?

How Are Astronaut Meals Prepared?

Have you ever wondered how astronaut meals are prepared? You are wrong if you think of the usual methods of sending the usual food on earth to space. Because astronaut dishes are designed according to the needs of human physiology changing in space, suitable for a non-gravity environment, and easy to prepare. In addition, it is also important that the food takes up little space and has a long shelf life since huge pantries cannot be added to the spacecraft.

When making a preparation for astronaut meals, several problems need to be resolved. This is the reason why experts in this field develop astronaut dishes. So, how did scientists specializing in this field find a solution for feeding astronauts? For the answer to this question, it is necessary to look at the studies on space food.

Studies on Space Food

First of all, NASA comes to mind when you think of astronaut food research, but today, there are also a few private space research institutions. We know that official space research units and private institutions of other countries, especially NASA, conduct different studies on the nutrition of astronauts in space.

We say “work” rather than “cooking” or “cooking” because everything we know about nutrition is changing in space. Because, with gravity and other differentiating factors, there are some changes in space for human physiology and requirements.

The department at NASA that prepares these special dishes is called the Space Food Systems Laboratory. In most studies, studies done by NASA are cited as references. So, what has NASA done and is doing about astronaut meals? For the answer to this question, we must look at what has changed from the first meals in space to today.

The Evolution of Astronaut Meals

In order to understand this subject well, it is necessary to go to the beginning of the space adventures of humanity first. April 12, 1961, is very important in this respect. The first human went into space on this date. Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first person to go into space in a vehicle called Vostok 1.

After that, as it is known, a great space race started between the USA and the Russians. In fact, that race caused this field to gain great momentum today. So, what changes have occurred in the food placed in the vehicle for people sent into space since 1961?

The answer to this question is closely related to changing technology and using it in the food industry. Food prepared for astronauts in space in the 1960s was products such as crackers or dried bread. Liquid liquids and foods that require cutlery were not preferred in a gravity-free environment.

Over time, different solutions were produced by changing the packaging. The need for long-term good nutrition of astronauts who lost their sense of taste was effective in this. Today, freeze-dried foods are preferred. So what does freeze drying mean?

Food Drying Methods and Freeze Drying

Freezing food is a well-known food preservation method. Many homes even have deep freezers. As it is known, in this method, the food freezes with the water it contains and then becomes ready for use when the frozen water liquefies again.

In this method, some nutritional values, taste, smell and color may be lost. In addition, it is not a suitable method for every food. For example, you may find that it loses its properties when you freeze and thaw chocolate.

One of the methods of preserving food is canning. This method is also highly preferred, but it is not possible to can every product. In addition, the shelf life of canned food is limited, and there are some changes in foods according to the fresh form.

Drying in the sun and drying with sulphurization are also very preferred food storage options. In recent years, freeze-drying has come to the fore as the storage method that will preserve the values of foods at the highest rate. This method is the best alternative for nutrition in space because it preserves its color, smell, taste, and nutritional values, takes up little space, and is very easy to consume. It is also becoming increasingly common for home and professional kitchens.

What Do Astronauts Eat in Space?

Astronauts can consume almost any food in space. However, foods need to go through some processes. The purpose of these processes is to be careful about the bacteria and fungus species that we will carry into space, to ensure that the astronauts are fed adequately, and to offer products that are easy to prepare, take up little space and last for a long time. In order to meet all these features, the foods in which three methods are used are consumed in space. These methods can be listed as follows:

  • Freeze-dried reconstituted foods,
  • Thermostabilized foods,
  • Irradiated foods

Freeze Drying Food

Freeze dryer machines; While preserving the value, color, smell and taste of foods, it takes up less space and keeps them fresh longer. For this reason, it is the most preferred method for the preparation of astronaut meals. In this way, almost any food, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, chocolate, cheese, and milk can be stored.

Thermostabilizing Food

This method is based on applying heat treatment to food. Soups packed in bags, like noodles and pastas, desserts and other dishes are thermostabilized and prepared for consumption in space.

Irradiation of Food

Especially for meat products, irradiation is a very common storage method. Irradiation is also done for the meat in the astronaut dishes. Heat treatment applied to foods such as red meat, chicken, and turkey allows them to be stored at room temperature. In addition, heating after opening the package is sufficient for consumption.

Preparation of Astronaut Meals

It is generally easy to prepare the food put into the spacecraft in ready form by the above methods. For the preparation of astronaut meals, it is often sufficient to add water to the food or to heat it. However, the heating method is not a very desirable option in spacecraft. This is the reason why it is much more preferable just to add water in the preparation of astronaut meals. For this reason, experts who develop space dishes focus on freeze-drying foods.

Today’s research shows there is still insufficient efficiency for long-term manned travel by spacecraft. However, the work continues. In the coming years, methods such as growing plants in spacecraft and obtaining food from 3D printing will become more applicable.

You can reach our previous article from