Potato Soup, Apollo 13

Air & Space Smithsonian - - I Was There -

q The Apollo meal pro­gram was a long ex­per­i­ment in bal­anc­ing ease of trans­port with as­tro­nauts’ nu­tri­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal needs. De­hy­drat­ing as­tro­nauts’ food solved a weight prob­lem: Wa­ter is heavy. The wa­ter used to re­con­sti­tute the food was cre­ated as a byprod­uct of the fuel cells, so no ex­tra had to be car­ried. Con­nect a wa­ter gun to the noz­zle, knead the pack­age for a few min­utes, and : some

voilà what-rec­og­niz­able nour­ish­ment. The first few mis­sions’ re­con­sti­tuted meals were pri­mar­ily mush to be squeezed from a tube into the mouth, Fla-vor-ice style. This soup is an ex­am­ple of a later re­fine­ment, the spoon-bowl pack­age. The top (op­po­site the wa­ter noz­zle) would be cut off, en­abling the as­tro­naut to eat with a spoon like a hu­man be­ing. Seafood was sur­pris­ingly pop­u­lar; Apollo 17 crew mem­bers got lob­ster bisque, though ap­par­ently as an ap­pe­tizer for peanut but­ter and jelly sand­wiches.

Be­cause of the tech­no­log­i­cal prob­lems that be­fell their mis­sion, the Apollo 13 as­tro­nauts en­dured strict wa­ter ra­tions—six ounces per day—which they sup­ple­mented with juices and wet-pack food that did not need to be re­con­sti­tuted. So the de­hy­drated soup was left over. Com­man­der Jim Lovell re­turned to Earth 14 pounds lighter. The Mu­seum has its own bag of potato soup, from Apollo 11, though it is cur­rently on loan. Jurvet­son paid $8,000 at auc­tion for this bag. Who’s hun­gry?

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