Freeze-dried, fully sealed, crumb-free and heated to precise temperatures. What exactly does it take to eat well in space, asks Amy Bryant
Amy Bryant on Heston’s exploding tinned bacon sandwich, and other delights
WOULD ASTRONAUTS BE ABLE to digest food in zero gravity? That was a pressing concern before the first manned space flight. Forget weight limitations, packaging pressures and whether the meals tasted any good – the big worry was if man would be able to swallow anything down at all. Fast-forward five decades and now the question is, ketchup with your beef stew and truffles, or mustard? Tim Peake’s chosen menu for his six-month stint on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016 – granted to each astronaut in addition to their shared rations – included wood-smoked salmon and key lime pie. His dishes were created for him by Heston Blumenthal, whose first rocket-load of supplies exploded just after launching from Cape Canaveral. ‘I watched in disbelief; my food had blown up!’ the chef recalls. ‘One of my team joked that he could see a tinned bacon sandwich falling to Earth.’ Once meals do eventually make it into space, they must be stowed properly, heated to a precise temperature, and satisfy the nutritional needs of their diners, not to mention their palates. For today’s astronauts, as for the Apollo crews, the success of the Space Food System is crucial to keep them healthy and happy – and that means scientists, technologists and chefs all have a part to play, along with a surprising number of freeze-dryers, can sealers and convection ovens...