While this pineapple fruit cake may look unappetizing to everyone down on earth, it's actually a far cry from what astronauts used to eat. Early astronauts were stuck eating bite-sized cubes, freeze-dried powders and semi-liquids that were stuffed in aluminum tubes.
There's no doubt their food was rather unappetizing, proved hard to squeeze out of tubes and since there was no hot water at that time on the shuttles, freeze-dried food was hard to rehydrate. After much complaint, food began to get a little better on the Gemini missions in the 1960s. To prevent crumbling, the bite-sized cubes were coated in gelatin and the squeezable tubes were eliminated.
The food only continued to get better with the Apollo program. The astronauts on these missions were the first to have hot water. This made rehydrating foods a lot easier and made the food taste a lot better. These astronauts were also the first to use what was called the spoon bowl, as seen in the picture. It allows them to eat the food out of the package with a spoon.
The next big step in space food came with the Skylab Program in 1973. This mission took place after Apollo and part of the shuttle was actually converted to an area where astronauts could cook and eat meals they chose. It even had a freezer on board so frozen foods could be carried. This led to one of the astronauts' favorite foods being brought into space, ice cream.
John Glenn was the first American astronaut to try to eat while in space. At that time, scientists weren't sure if people could properly eat and digest food with zero gravity. This tube was filled with beef and vegetables and was issued to Glenn while he was on Friendship 7 in February of 1962. Today, beef and vegetables looks a little different, but it's still not what we're used to.
Astronauts are now able to enjoy (well, as much as you can enjoy space food) a wider variety of foods. They can select food combinations themselves from a menu that consists of some favorites, such as shrimp cocktail, butterscotch pudding and chicken and vegetables.
Flour tortillas are a favorite among astronauts in space. They provide an easier and tastier substitute to bread. Regular flour tortillas, like the ones we buy from the store, spoil quickly in space. So astronauts eat what's called a shelf stable tortilla. By using modified atmospheric packaging, the tortillas don't mold as fast.
An astronaut's eating experience in space is almost (the key word is almost) like eating at home. During their meal, they use a food tray that holds a variety of food containers. The tray can strapped to their lap or the wall to prevent the food from floating away. The tray allows astronauts to be able to choose from multiple foods at once just like they would at their dinner table at home.
This tea sure does look a lot different than what we're used to, doesn't it? If astronauts want to drink a glass of delicious sweet tea, this is what they get. The package includes tea, sugar and lemon. The astronauts just have to add water to the package.
Astronauts are now able to choose the food they're going to eat while they're in space. The food choosing process takes place eight to nine months before flight. Looks like no last minute food cravings allowed! Astronauts are able to sample the food that is available before making their selections. Once they do, their menu is reviewed by the Shuttle Dietician and corrected for any lack of nutrients.
These M&Ms seem to be the only food that looks somewhat appetizing! If we were in space, we'd probably just want to eat these all day, every day.
There's nothing like the smell of bacon in the morning. Well, space bacon is a little different than what we're used to. This tightly packaged Canadian bacon with applesauce is just one of the many options astronauts can choose from on their flights.
These food packages are rehydratable. We don't know about you, but without the food labels, we're not sure we'd be able to identify these colorful pastes. There's nothing like powdered drinks and pureed peas.
Despite its unappetizing look, shrimp cocktail is actually a favorite among astronauts. We're not sure how tasty freeze-dried shrimp could be, but at least the astronauts love it!
Space food sure has come a long way since John Glenn first tried it. And while the food may not be the most appetizing, the astronauts sure don't seem to mind. They're in space! And what's cooler than that?!