How NASA Will get a Turkey to House for Vacation Meals


Planning vacation meals is hard sufficient on Earth. In house, it requires Noma-levels of preparation from groups of scientists decided to present astronauts one thing particular. And it’s not simply the problem of making meals that may survive the journey, however all types of logistical points distinctive to eating in a state of near-weightlessness. For example, typical Christmas cookies and every other meals that generate crumbs may create a catastrophe on the Worldwide House Station (ISS) because of the extremely delicate tools on board. Because of this, cookies on the station are sufficiently small to eat in a single chew, and different, bigger desserts have to be gooey or moist. Most house meals additionally should be shelf-stable, fit for human consumption months after supply, and packed in a means that creates minimal mess.

Determining the coordination and technique behind these challenges is the job of Kimberly Glaus Läte and her crew. Läte is a scientist at Leidos, a NASA contractor that works with the NASA House Meals Methods Laboratory (SFSL) to organize and bundle meals — holidays and in any other case — for the crew on the house station. We requested Läte what’s on the menu aboard the ISS this vacation season, how meals are ready for eating in house, and what kind of dietary restrictions may be accommodated 250 miles above Earth.

Eater: First off, are you able to stroll us by means of the challenges of constructing meals to be used in house? What’s the space-worthy food-prep course of from pan to bundle?

Kimberly Glaus Läte: Shelf-stable, ready-to-eat meals gadgets like cookies, crackers, and path combine are bought commercially and repackaged in flight-approved packaging supplies. Beverage powders are bought, packaged in pouches and vacuum-sealed with a septum meeting, which permits water to be added with out leaking. Crew members shake the pouch to dissolve the powder, then drink the beverage utilizing a particular straw.

Bought substances are used to organize meals, that are then both freeze-dried or thermostabilized. Freeze-dried meals have to be rehydrated previous to consumption. They’re vacuum-packaged with a septum meeting to permit water to be added to completely rehydrate the meals previous to the crew member reducing open the bundle and consuming. Thermostabilized meals are able to eat and may be heated or consumed at room temperature.

What vacation meals will the ISS crew have this 12 months?

The usual menu consists of each sliced roasted turkey (a freeze-dried merchandise, rehydrated by the crew member) and smoked turkey (an irradiated product that’s able to eat), plus mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, macaroni and cheese, inexperienced beans, and cranapple dessert. The SFSL crew additionally ready a particular vacation meals container together with canned crab meat, smoked salmon, pork liver pate, jellied cranberry sauce and pumpkin spice latte. The meals was delivered in November.

Crumbs may be harmful on the house station. How are desserts like cookies modified to be extra ISS pleasant (and fewer messy)?

Normal-menu cookies and snacks are typically bite-sized. Gadgets that aren’t bite-sized are chewy or sticky, limiting the crumbs generated. Lemon curd cake and chocolate pudding cake are thermostabilized, pouched meals (like ready-to-eat rooster and tuna present in grocery shops). Each muffins are moist and don’t generate crumbs. To present crew members a vacation expertise, tubes of icing are supplied for adorning the cookies.

Do worldwide crew members usually get collectively for vacation celebrations, no matter backgrounds?

The on-orbit crew do get collectively for celebrations and particular meals.

With Christmas coming, do ISS crew members obtain food-based items from their family members nonetheless on Earth? How does that work?

House station crew members obtain care packages with meals chosen by their households. The SFSL crew supplies enter to make sure the chosen gadgets gained’t generate crumbs and are shelf-stable.

Do any astronauts have dietary restrictions or preferences? Are you able to cater meals to particular diets?

The usual house station menu is shipped forward of crew and designed to be acceptable to the final inhabitants. Because it needs to be despatched forward, it can’t accommodate particular person restrictions or decisions. ISS crew do get some particular person decisions in a restricted amount of personal-preference allotment for resupply schedules, however this might not be potential on future exploration missions farther from Earth.

Are there particular well being issues to contemplate when making meals to be eaten in house? For example, do crew members want extra of sure vitamins than they may right here? Do they require dietary supplements?

The SFSL crew prepares meals utilizing non-iodized salt, as iodine might create thyroid points for crew members. Extra iron can also be a priority. Meals for spaceflight have lowered sodium in comparison with most commercially processed meals to forestall exacerbation of spaceflight situations corresponding to bone loss or intraocular stress points. Crew members are individually paired with a flight surgeon, collaboratively assessing the necessity for any dietary supplements.

Are any junk meals/snack meals despatched up?

Snacks on the usual menu are typically wholesome, corresponding to dried fruit, path combine, and nuts. Three sorts of candy-coated candies are on the usual menu. Moreover, crew members choose their favourite snacks and sweet to incorporate of their crew choice containers. Round 20-25% of the meals are private choice or specialty gadgets that may be accommodated with the ISS resupply schedule.

What drinks have they got? Is every part apart from water dehydrated?

Every crew member is allotted 5 espresso/tea choice containers as a part of their private choice allotment. The SFSL crew works with the crew members to pick out the powdered espresso, tea or different beverage of their option to be packaged within the beverage pouch. This enables crew members to have their caffeinated beverage the best way they may at residence. You may’t add sweetener or cream to a beverage pouch on-orbit; all of the substances need to be included when it’s packaged. There are additionally containers with drinks like cocoa, orange drink, mango-peach smoothie and different drinks. The usual menu doesn’t embrace alcoholic drinks.

Does contemporary meals ever get despatched up?

Recent meals kits, shelf-stable meals kits, and chilly stowage kits are despatched on every cargo automobile, upmass availability allowing. Recent meals kits often embrace apples, oranges, and different gadgets that crew members request. Shelf-stable kits comprise meals merchandise saved at room temperature and embrace particular requests. The cold-stowage meals kits comprise perishable gadgets like cheese.

I’ve heard pizza kits are a welcome deal with. How do these work?

Pizza kits are a particular deal with and embrace shelf-stable pizza crust, pizza sauce in a squeezable plastic bottle, pepperoni, and different shelf-stable toppings. These substances nonetheless have a restricted shelf life and are solely potential because of resupply and the quick distance between the Earth and ISS. The pizza is a enjoyable reminder of residence.

Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance author with a ardour for offbeat matters. Her work has appeared in Atlas Obscura, USA As we speak, SFGate, and extra.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *