Ever have that odd food craving that hits you out of nowhere? Well, imagine having the same craving while orbiting 230 miles above Earth’s surface. For astronauts, no matter how taste buds change in flight, they will be eating off a set menu that was prepared months in advance. And when confined to tight quarters, food is more important than ever.
"In situations where there is little outside stimulation and we're somewhat lonely, food becomes more of a focus because it gives us sensual and chemical stimulation," said Emilce Vest, Food Services director and executive chef for The Space Food Systems Laboratory at Johnson Space Center. "We also crave the social payoff in 'breaking bread' with our companions."
So with the the next crew to launch toward the International Space Station set to launch in less than 10 days, here are some tips from NASA for consuming cosmic cuisine.
1. Be Ready to Eat
An astronaut's daily food intake consists of three meals and a snack, so that means there's no getting away with skipping breakfast. This photo, taken March 3 at the International Space Station, shows the Flight Engineers of Expedition 34 celebrating the arrival of fresh food supplies delivered earlier that day.
2. Expect the Expected
The crew at the Space Station operates on a 10-day menu cycle. That means every meal has been planned well in advance, so no surprise homemade cheesecake. Every calorie consumed has been orchestrated months before take-off. To give you an idea, here is an example of a menu at the Space Station. In this photo, Expedition 34 Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield juggles some tomatoes onboard the Earth-orbiting International Space Station.
3. Pack a Lunch
Crewmembers can carry on a warm sandwich during launch and eat it when they first reach orbit. Not that rattling through the atmosphere would necessarily whet the appetite, but it's an option. Here cosmonaut Fyodor N. Yurchikhin, commander of Expedition 15, floats a bite-sized snack in front of his face during orbit.
4. No Crumbs Allowed
Flour tortillas are the favorite bread item of astronauts, because they do not give off crumbs. In zero-gravity, crumbs will float around the cabin like dust and so crumby foods are to be avoided. Here astronaut Nicole Stott, STS-133 mission specialist, enjoys a tortilla snack during her second day in orbit.
5. There's Comfort Food
While the majority of cosmic cuisine is freeze dried, astronauts can eat warm desserts such as cobbler and bread pudding in space. Here the cosmonauts of Expedition 35/36 sample some space food before getting shot through the stratosphere.
6. No Mixers
The only juice aboard the Space Station is a spray-dried orange juice. While there's obviously no boozing aboard, if there were, the cocktail menu would be limited to "screwdrivers." Here astronaut John "Danny" Olivas, STS-128 mission specialist, prepares a meal.
7. Chilled Out
Onboard the Space Station, there is no chilled water. The only options are lukewarm water and hot. That means astronauts can go for months without a cold beverage. Here cosmonauts Jan Davis and Mae Jemison are seen dining aboard the shuttle Endeavor on Sept. 12, 1992.
8. Share the Load
Russia and the United States each provide half of the food items onboard the Space Station. Here astronauts Thomas Stafford (left) and Donald Slayton hold containers of Soviet space food, specifically borsch, during the joint U.S.-USSR Apollo-Soyuz Test Project back in 1975. In true Russian form, they've cleverly covered the food containers with vodka labels.
9. Play with Your Food
You have permission to forget everything your parents ever taught you about playing with food while you are in space. Here, STS-126 mission specialists Shane Kimbrough and Sandra Magnus fool around with fruit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on Nov. 16, 2008.
10. Tasty Tidbits
Small candies like M&Ms are must-haves for a launch into space. They not only break up the monotony of space meals, but they provide their own sweet version of entertainment. Here NASA astronaut and commander Loren J. Shriver catches floating M&Ms in his mouth aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis.