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The Future of Space Food: Intro + Resources

Published onApr 03, 2020
The Future of Space Food: Intro + Resources

The Future of Space Food: Intro + Resources

Spaceflight is an adventure, but being so far away from home can come with its challenges. Astronauts have shared that familiar foods (ones they eat on Earth) can be a huge source of comfort in space, and will play an even more significant role on long-duration space travel and future life in space habitats. How can we meet the nutritional, performance, and emotional needs of astronauts, as well as future space travelers, through food? Currently, space food is freeze-dried and prepackaged before being sent up to the International Space Station to feed astronauts. However the advancement of deep space exploration and the development of an interplanetary space tourism industry will make new cultural events and experiences never encountered before in human history possible. How can we design new and unforeseen food products and systems that extend beyond basic sustenance?

Thoughtfully designed foods and culinary experiences could allow humans to feel more connected to their loved ones and histories on Earth, as well as promote the beginning of a food culture that fosters deeper relationships with new worlds. Food doesn’t just provide nourishment—it opens our imagination, engages our senses (see, smell, taste, touch, sound), and contains cultural heritage! A new and unique food culture will surely emerge as humans venture into new orbits. These activities will focus on the future of food—in outer space and planet Earth!

Food for Thought: At this moment in time, many of us across the world are being asked to stay at home and practice self-isolation to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Although this is very difficult at times, it could also be a time for self-reflection, deep connections, and new forms of curiosity and creativity. In a strange way, we are experiencing a version of what it might be like for an astronaut to live in an enclosed space habitat, physically separated from loved ones and aspects of their daily life on Earth. Home cooking can be an incredible way to seek comfort, express ourselves, connect with our roots, and experience the world through all of our five senses. 

Staying at home means we may not have access to all the things and experiences we are used to, including food. Although this has forced many of us into new routines, this could be an opportunity to rethink the ways that we eat and imagine a better future through the lens of food. 

Considerations for Dining in Space. There are a number of environmental factors that make food preparation and dining in space difficult! When designing foods or culinary experiences for the future of space travel and explorations, those considerations can be important to keep in mind. Here are some of those obstacles: 

  • Microgravity affects fluid behavior, so you can’t pour or drink easily.

  • Space environments alter human physiology, dulling astronauts’ sense of taste.  

  • Because it is so costly to ship cargo into space, foods must have a very long shelf-life

  • Weightlessness affects the ability to homogenize or combine ingredients, so even salting a meal is impossible! 

  • Food must not produce crumbs, which can stray into air filtration systems and damage costly equipment.

  • Size and weight of foods are vital because there is finite storage space on-board, thus meals are often vacuum-sealed, freeze-dried, and flat-packed. 

  • Standard kitchen equipment used to store and heat food (including ovens and freezers) are not available due to storage constraints, energy constraints, and maintenance costs. 

  • Processes that require microbial activity, like fermentation, are impossible on the ISS because the microorganisms required to carry-out these processes aren’t permitted. 


Overview of Space Food 

Future of Space Food 

aidana rakmetolla:

very cool and very well written