Ba­con rash­ers in space

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - REGIONAL EXTRA -

THESE days, get­ting food de­liv­ered to your doorstep is a fairly easy af­fair, par­tic­u­larly if you live in a big city.

There’s a ver­i­ta­ble buf­fet of fast food de­liv­ery ser­vices, along with easy to use apps that can have you chow­ing down in a mat­ter of min­utes - even in more ru­ral ar­eas like ours.

But there is a least one fron­tier the armies of con­ve­nient food dis­pen­sary have yet to con­quer - space. No one de­liv­ers pizza in space. It’s sad but true. If you want to grow up to be an as­tro­naut some­day, don’t do it for the fancy meals.

Eat­ing in space presents some unique chal­lenges for as­tro­nauts.

For a start, the lack of grav­ity means that if you let go of a piece of food, it will float off and drift around your space ve­hi­cle. So too for cups of liq­uid. Liq­uid won’t stay in a cup, it, too, will float out and hang in the air.

To al­low as­tro­nauts to stay in space for days or weeks at a time, sci­en­tists had to in­vent spe­cialised ways of pack­ag­ing and eat­ing foods in space.

The first such space foods were soft foods (kind of like baby food) pack­aged in tubes like tooth­paste.

For ex­am­ple, John Glenn be­came the first U.S. as­tro­naut to eat in space when he ate ap­ple­sauce from an alu­minum tube dur­ing a 1962 Mer­cury space mis­sion.

He had to squeeze the food into his mouth.

If that doesn’t sound very ap­petis­ing to you, you’re not alone.

As­tro­nauts weren’t about it ei­ther.

Even­tu­ally, sci­en­tists de­vel­oped bet­ter, tastier foods that were eas­ier to eat.

Freeze-dry­ing was one such method of trans­port­ing more nu­tri­tious food into space.

Food was cooked, quickly frozen, and then de­hy­drated in a spe­cial vac­uum cham­ber.

This meant that the food didn’t need to be re­frig­er­ated and would last a long time.

To con­sume the freeze-dried foods, as­tro­nauts squeeze hot wa­ter into the food pack­ages and then eat the food af­ter it ab­sorbs the wa­ter.

Some freeze-dried foods, like fruit, can be eaten dry.

In fact, you may eat as­tro­naut food from time to time with­out re­al­is­ing it.

To­day, many break­fast ce­re­als in­clude freeze-dried fruits, like straw­ber­ries, that add color and fla­vor to an oth­er­wise bland break­fast.

As­tro­nauts fly­ing mod­ern space shut­tle missions now eat many of the same foods they eat on Earth.

Food still needs to be de­hy­drated or pre­pared in spe­cial ways, but space shut­tles now have full kitchens with hot wa­ter and an oven.

In fact, in one of He­ston Blu­men­thal’s ex­actly crazy re­cent spe­cials, he pre­pared gourmet meals for Bri­tish as­tro­naut Tim Peake to take with him to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, in­clud­ing zero-grav­ity ba­con sand­wiches, packed in­side air­tight tins.

As­tro­nauts can also use condi­ments, like ketchup, mus­tard, and may­on­naise, in pack­ets to add fla­vor. Salt and pep­per can be used, too, but they have to be used in a liq­uid form be­cause oth­er­wise the grains would just float away.

Drinks are also de­hy­drated and kept in pow­der form in spe­cial pouches.

The pouches have built-in straws or spe­cial noz­zles that let as­tro­nauts drink straight from the pouch since grav­ity makes drink­ing from a cup a messy idea.

To make sure their food doesn’t float off, as­tro­nauts at­tach their food con­tain­ers and uten­sils to spe­cial trays with Vel­cro fas­ten­ers.

The trays also fas­ten to their laps, so they can en­joy a meal while sit­ting down.

Nutri­tion­ists plan as­tro­naut meals to make sure they get all of the nu­tri­ents and vi­ta­mins they need to per­form their im­por­tant work in space, as some as­tro­nauts be­gin to ex­pe­ri­ence di­ges­tive prob­lems af­ter they’ve been in space a long time.

So the next time you or­der a pizza to be de­liv­ered to yuor doorstep, spare a thought for the as­tro­nauts out there, and the com­plex­ity of the task to feed them.

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