Space-age suppers

Freeze-dried, fully sealed, crumb-free and heated to pre­cise tem­per­a­tures. What ex­actly does it take to eat well in space, asks Amy Bryant

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents -

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...

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