Ready for a meal that’s out of this world?
On September 15, SpaceX is scheduled to launch the Inspiration4 all-civilian mission to orbit. The space-faring firm is billing the trip as the first of its kind: It will see four members of the public orbit the Earth once every 90 minutes for three days in a Crew Dragon capsule.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the crew plans to make the most of it. Beyond conducting scientific experiments, passenger Sian Proctor tells Inverse that she plans to eat her ideal meal in space: pizza.
“When people have asked me what would I want to eat in space, I have always said pizza,” Proctor says. “I am going to have pizza in space, thanks to SpaceX!”
It’s not the first time Proctor, a geoscientist and community college professor, has combined pizza and space travel. As an “analog astronaut,” someone that simulates space missions for several days on Earth, Proctor made pepperoni pizza during her 2013 stay at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation habitat.
Want to know more about Dr. Sian Proctor, what makes Inspiration4 unique, and the dramatic spaceflight changes SpaceX is heading? Read the full interview with professor Sian Proctor and CEO Jared Isaacman, only in MUSK READS+.
There’s a rich history of astronauts sampling new treats during their mission. NASA sends its astronauts with pre-cooked food, which means all astronauts need to do for most food is add heat or water.
Here are some of the other fascinating foodstuffs consumed in the cosmos:
5. Corn beef sandwich
In 1965, astronaut John Young smuggled a corn beef sandwich on board the Gemini 3 mission. Space.com explains how the mission was the first to send two American astronauts into space, less than a week after the Soviet Union reached the same milestone.
During the mission, Young took the sandwich out of his pocket and shared some with astronaut Gus Grissom. Pieces of rye bread started to float around the cabin, suggesting it maybe wasn’t a great idea.
“After the flight our superiors at NASA let us know in no uncertain terms that non-man-rated corned beef sandwiches were out for future space missions,” Grissom said in his NASA biography. “But John's deadpan offer of this strictly non-regulation goodie remains one of the highlights of our flight for me.”
4. Bacon sandwich
Nearly 50 years later, celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal worked with the UK Space Agency to create a meal for British astronaut Tim Peake. Each passenger on the ISS has one-fifth of the food they eat as a personal supply, with the rest coming from shared rations.
Blumenthal and Peake agreed on a delicious menu: beef stew with truffles, wood-smoked salmon, sausage and mash, Thai red curry, and a Key lime pie. Peake requested that Blumenthal add one more item to the list: a bacon sandwich, or “bacon sarnie” as it’s sometimes known in British English.
Space agencies had learned a few things about food since the corn beef incident, so Peake couldn’t shove one in his pocket. Blumenthal had to put the ingredients of a bacon sandwich into a can before it was heated for two hours at 284 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure the food was space stable.
It took multiple tries to get right, as the chef tried to ensure the ingredients wouldn't seep into each other during the process and remain stable during the heating process.
“You’re thinking you should be able to do this,” Blumenthal told The Guardian in 2016. “Because it’s only a bacon sandwich. IT’S ONLY A BACON SANDWICH.”
The sandwich ultimately used thick butter, sticky brown bread, and tough bacon. Maybe not the best in the world — but certainly an improvement over Young’s contraband.
3. Flour tortillas with everything
Flour tortillas have become a common feature of NASA missions.
The idea came to NASA after Rodolfo Vela, the first astronaut from Mexico, flew on the shuttle in 1985. He and astronaut Mary Cleave are credited with introducing tortillas to spaceflight.
Tortillas have three big benefits, as explained in the book The Astronaut’s Cookbook:
- They don’t have crumbs, a big improvement over sandwiches like Young’s.
- Astronauts can roll them up and eat them with one hand.
- They’re fun to use as frisbees.
Speaking to CNET in 2014, Vickie Kloeris, the manager of the International Space Station Food System, explained that NASA struggled at first to develop tortillas that could last for months on space trips.
The agency was saved by an unlikely source — Taco Bell, which started producing tortillas that could last for up to nine months. Today, NASA’s Tumblr account explains, the agency sources the tortillas from the military.
2. Ham salad spread
NASA has gradually perfected its food technology over time, but early astronauts weren’t so lucky.
The Apollo 11 mission, which sent the first humans to the Moon, packed a relatively subdued itinerary of treats. That included a ham salad spread, designed for the crew’s sandwiches. Other delights included bacon squares, sugar cookie cubes, and a turkey and gravy wet pack.
Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut with the European Space Agency, made history in May 2015 when she became the first person to brew an espresso in space.
It made a big change from previous missions. Mashed explains that astronauts would normally drink freeze-dried instant coffee. This avoids astronauts grinding beans and sending debris everywhere. Cristoforetti got around this issue by using Nespresso-like coffee pods.
The drink was brewed by a machine called the ISSpresso. It heats water and pressurizes it to brew espresso. It’s also capable of making tea, broth, and other hot drinks. The machine was developed by Argotec for Lavazza, as part of a partnership with the Italian Space Agency.
Sadly for future astronauts, the machine returned to Earth in 2017, after 32 months onboard the ISS.
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