Before man ventured into space for the first time, there was concern that he might choke while attempting to swallow food in zero gravity. Foreign body pneumonia from aspiration of food particles and droplets was feared by some. The ability of man to digest and absorb food in a weightless environment was also seriously debated. These concerns for man’s physiological well-being during weightlessness were augmented by fears that the unfamiliar and austere limitations imposed by the space vehicle and flight plans might place unacceptable constraints on the food system. Some food technologists doubted that edible foods could be prepared to withstand conditions of temperature, pressure, and vibration which were characteristic of unmanned space flight vehicles. Limitations on allowable weight and volume would also have direct impact on the food system.
Despite early concerns, restrictions, and technological hurdles surrounding space food development, adequate and acceptable diets were formulated and made available in sufficient time to accommodate the needs of man in space. The earliest food systems used in the Project Mercury flights and the short duration Gemini Program flights resembled military survival rations. For the first long term flight, the two-week Gemini 7 mission, nutritional criteria became important considerations and began to constrain food system designers. Adequate provisions for energy and nutrient, had to be made within an exceedingly small weight and volume envelope. This food system envelope, about .77 kg per man per day (1.7 pounds) and 1802 cm3 per man per day (110 cubic inches), also had to allow for all packaging materials needed to protect foods.
Because water produced as a by-product of fuel cell operation in the Gemini Spacecraft could be made available, it became highly attractive from a food acceptance and weight savings standpoint to use dehydrated foods that could be reconstituted in flight. This was the departure point for the development of the Apollo food system, and systematic improvements were subsequently made as technology became available and the application was feasible.
Apollo food system technology evolved over a considerable period of time, with the aid of efforts from the U.S. Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program, the U.S. Army Natick Laboratories, industry, and universities. The earliest “space foods” were bite-sized foods suitable for eating with one’s fingers, and pureed foods, squeezed directly into the mouth from flexible metal toothpaste-type tubes. Extensive modifications in food and food packaging were made throughout Project Mercury and the Gemini and Apollo Programs. Modifications of the food system were especially necessary during the Apollo Program for the following reasons.
1. Inflight food consumption proved inadequate to maintain nutritional balance and body weight.
2. Inflight nausea, anorexia, and undesirable physiological responses experienced by some crewmen were believed to be partly attributable to the foods.
3. Meal preparation and consumption required too much crew time and effort.
4. Water for reconstitution of dehydrated foods was unpalatable initially and contained undesirable amounts of dissolved gases.
5. Functional failures occurred in the rehydratable food packages in the early Apollo flights.
Before an Apollo launch, each prime and backup crewmember evaluated available flight foods and selected the food items he preferred. Then the foods were assembled into nutritionally balanced menus which were reviewed by crewmembers and nutritionists for maximum acceptability within nutritional constraints. Finally, the astronauts were briefed on spacecraft food stowage, preparation, and waste disposal.
Apollo 7: The food system for the first manned Apollo mission was basically that provided in the Gemini Program but featured a wider variety of foods.
Apollo 8: On Christmas day, 1968, during the first lunar orbital mission, the Apollo 8 astronauts opened packages of thermostabilized turkey and gravy and ate with spoons. This turkey entree required no water for rehydration because the normal water content (67 percent) had been retained. The thermally stabilized, ready-to-eat meal in a flexible can became known as a “wetpack,” a term used to differentiate this package from the dehydrated space foods that required the addition of water before consumption. The flexible packs were made from a laminate of polyester, aluminum foil, and polyolefin. The Apollo 8 crew also used a conventional teaspoon to eat some foods. and found that this mode of food consumption in weightlessness was quite satisfactory. This finding led to food package redesign which made the use of spoons much more convenient.
Apollo 9: The extensive use of wetpack containers without difficulty during this mission confirmed the potential for eating a substantial portion of food from open containers. The Apollo 9 crewmen experimented further by cutting open a rehydratable food package and eating its contents with a spoon; the experiment was successful. During Apollo 9, the Lunar Module Pilot experienced nausea and vomiting. Menu manipulation in flight to reduce the tendency for nausea represented the first use of real-time food selection for countering undesirable physiological responses to vestibular stimuli.
Apollo 10: the spoon-bowl package was introduced. The spoon-bowl package permitted convenient use of a spoon for consuming rehydrated foods. This modified package had a water inlet valve at one end and a large plastic-zippered opening on the other, which provided access to the rehydrated food with a spoon. Large pieces of dehydrated meat and vegetables could now be included to provide a more familiar and acceptable texture. Apollo 10 also marked the first successful use of conventional slices of fresh bread and sandwich spreads. This bread had a shelf life at Apollo vehicle temperatures for at least four weeks when packaged in a nitrogen atmosphere. Provision of the bread allowed crewmen to make sandwiches using meat salad spreads provided in separate containers. The sandwich spreads were preserved by thermal processing and final package closing in a hyperbaric chamber. The process enhances preservation of natural flavor and texture by reducing thermal processing time and temperature. The Apollo 10 crewmen reported some discomfort from a feeling of fullness and gastric awareness immediately after eating. This was troublesome to individual astronauts throughout the Apollo Program.
Apollo 11: New food items for the Apollo 11 flight included thermostabilized cheddar cheese spread and thermostabilized frankfurthers. Sandwich spreads were packaged in “401&quo; aluminum cans, which featured a pull-tab for easy removal of the entire top of the can. This can proved successful and eventually became the nucleus for the development of the open-dish eating concept implemented in the Skylab Program. A six-day supply of food and accessory items were stowed in pantry fashion to permit some food selection based on real-time preference and appetite and to supplement the meal packages if more food was desired by an individual. The foods included beverages, salads, soups, meals, breakfast items, desserts, and bite-sized foods. Primary food packages were placed in nonflammable overwraps, which served to keep food groups together and to partition the spacecraft food container for ease of retrieval in flight. Germicide tablets were provided for stabilization of any food residue remaining in the primary food packages.
Apollo 12: Freeze dehydrated scrambled eggs were introduced and were well accepted by the crew.
Apollo 13: The Apollo 13 food system included the first dehydrated natural orange juice. Orange juice had not been employed in space food systems previously because the dehydration methods available failed to prevent fusion of natural sugars with the formation of an insoluble mass.
Apollo 14: The Apollo 14 food system included an in-suit drinking device. This allowed the astronauts to better maintain fluid balance during extensive lunar surface operations. Foods were also examined for the presence of heavy metals. The only deviation from perfect performance in the food safety area was a failure in the early detection of mercury contamination in the Apollo 14 tuna fish salad. The tuna fish was removed from the food system shortly prior to launch, and a nutritionally equivalent substitute from the pantry was used to supplement the menu.
Apollo 15: Apollo 15 crewmen consumed solid food while working on the lunar surface. High nutrient density food bars were installed inside the full pressure suit. Figure 8 (below) shows a view of the neck ring area of the Apollo lunar surface pressure suit with the in-suit food bar and the in-suit drink device installed. The in-suit drink device was designed to provide water or fruit flavored beverages. This crew was the first to consume all of the mission food provided.
Apollo 16: Electrocardiographic recordings for Apollo 15 crewmen indicated occasional arrhythmias believed to be possibly linked to a potassium deficit. For Apollo 16 grape drink, orange drink, pineapple-orange drink, pineapple-grapefruit drink, grapefruit with sugar, and cocoa were fortified with potassium gluconate, for an average daily inflight potassium intake of approximately 100 mEq. Real-time adjustments in nutrition were applied by menu rearrangements to counteract the gastrointestinal awareness reported by one crewmember and believed to be associated with dietary potassium intake.
Apollo 17: In addition to a liberal usage of previously described improved foods, the Apollo 17 system was modified by the inclusion of shelf-stable ham steak that had been sterilized by exposure to cobalt-60 gamma irradiation (3.7 megarads). The Apollo 17 food system also incorporated a fruit cake that provided complete nutrition in shelf-stable, intermediate-moisture, ready-to-eat form. Both proved to be highly acceptable to the crewmen. This type of intermediate-moisture food was included in the Skylab contingency food system and was later evaluated and used in the Space Shuttle food program. –– Malcolm C. Smith, D.V.M., N.D. Heidelbaugh, V.M.D., Paul C. Rambaut, Sc.D., R.M. Rapp, Harry O. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Space Shuttle/International Space Station: Although most people rarely consider what the three people who live on the International Space Station are going to have for dinner, food scientists in Houston spend their days over what their astronauts eat. More than 400 people have shot into space since 1961, and none have eaten better than the astronauts in the space station, said Vickie Kloeris, who has been with the space food program for 21 years. “We have so much more variety,” Ms. Kloeris said. “You’re going to have a fair number of meat-and-potatoes guys, but we’ve been incorporating more ethnic food.” A French chef has also gotten into the space food game, working on some canned meals expected to debut in the fall. It is the first time that the European Union is contributing to a space menu jointly supplied by Russia and the United States.’ (read the totality)
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Astronaut food in action
Eating tea with chopsticks on the ISS
Eating peanut butter and honey on the ISS
Drinking water on the ISS
Water boiling in space
Brushing one’s teeth on the ISS
Space food sticks commercial
Sputnik cosmonaut displays the food he ate in space
p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yes, I would have been very surprised if you didn’t know his work. Let me guess, Laura Nyro, yesterday, … ‘Save the Country’? *click* I was right! And it’s from my very favorite of her albums, ‘New York Tendaberry’, thank you. And for the link to the piece on Gary’s book. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. It’s snowing here! Glory be to g*d! Hope you found the Yalkut films interesting. Yes, relief on the producer front. Agreed, thanks in huge part, but not only, to the MAGA cap wearing teen trigger, my Facebook feed has been the most near insufferable it has been in a while, which is saying something. ** Misanthrope, Hi. In the case of yesterday, not knowing his stuff previously is very understandable. It has always seemed in your descriptions of LPS’s self-destructive things that peer pressure and a related need to want to seem cool and strong, etc., is a big culprit. That shit does pass in time, obviously, but one hopes that time is almost over. Sounds like you had a nice weekend, yeah. It’s snowing here finally. Of course I have to tromp around in it running errands, so the bliss may be short lived. ** Jeff J, Hey, Jeff! Great to see you, bud! Man oh man, it’s been heady and mega-heartening to see the crazy great reception of your novel going on. Wow. I hope you’re luxuriating in that. I have extreme interest in that post you propose, yes! I would be thrilled and really grateful. I love Roussel to bits, as you know, and The Song Cave too, as you probably know, so, yes! Please! Great! I’ve seen, I think, three or maybe four episodes of ‘The Owl’s Legacy’, and it’s deeply fantastic. Excellent news about the DVD release. I’ll see what the deal is over here. Listen, I’ve known Michael forever and been on his show many times, and I’m still rather helplessly dizzied by his attention to my things. It’s very intimidating. But I thought you fielded him very well. Yes, Michael is coming to see ‘PGL’ in LA, which I’m thrilled about, and we have plans to hang out, so that’s wonderful. And thank you so much for helping to re-hook us up email-wise. ** Dominik, Hi, D! Giant yay on the new SCAB’s coming together! Can not wait! You started with ‘The Pale King’, Interesting. I’m a huger than huge fan of his writing. His sentences make my jaw hit the floor. His non-fiction is fantastic if you want to go further. I’d suggest starting with ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again’ if you do. We made four proposal posters yesterday and sent them to our producer and distributor, and they liked the one we like the best, so that’s cool. We need to finesse the design now, that’s all. We’ll probably make the new trailer when we get back from London. I get from back there on Thursday night. It’s a quickie. Thank you for the good wishes. Have a swell week! ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. I actually did see pix of that Pettibon couture just this morning. Nuts! ** Kyler, Hi, K. Thanks, man. Well, I think it’ll play in a theater in NYC first, and the DVD will follow. In the spring sometime maybe? I’m not sure. Well, I can pop off to London when the popping in bankrolled, at least, which is, yes, a boon. ** JM, Ha ha, whoa. I wonder if he was the heir to the probiotic milk fortune? Bon day. ** Nik, Ha, cool, about the photo. Well, the thing with the producers, it’s not hugely uncommon. I’m not entirely sure that a bunch of the publishers of my books have really understood my novels either. Ultimately you just hope they support it even if they don’t get it, and, so far, that seems to be the case with the TV producers. Your strategy about how the stories can connect sounds really sensible to me. Definitely nothing to stress about. Oh, I think I just meant that writers don’t always see playing and experimenting while feeling unnatural about the pursuit as ultimately a matter of them developing and furthering their skills, and that the lack of comfort is instructive rather than just self-incriminating. Fear is stupid, and failing is just what happens sometimes, basically. You can send it to this email: email@example.com. Thanks, man. The London thing should be rewarding and fun, I think. ** Corey Heiferman, Hi, man. Cool, thank you for investigating the Yalkut and the other recent posts. Film school! Obviously, I’ll be a big encourager about that move. I always thought of school as just creating a proximity to helpful facilities and thoughtful attention and potential peers. Mm, I think so about getting riveted to a single work or body of work, yes. I can’t think of examples. People tell me I was relentless about Rimbaud at a certain point in my life. Anyway, I think that focus is surely important, and I would dig in while it lasts and think of it as a gift. Excellent, and very best of luck on the poems and the submission! ** Right. Today’s weird-ish post is the oldest post I’ve ever restored. It’s literally from 12 years ago, and I suspect it seems its age, and I will be amazed if any of its links still work, but, I don’t know. Just a whim. I head off to London tomorrow, but I think I will have time to do a quick p.s. in the morning before I split, so I will see you then.