Shrimp Cocktail, 200 Miles Above Earth

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Dinner is served! Astronauts assemble their meals on a food tray to ensure they have everything they need in one place. Image courtesy NASA.

From applesauce in a tube to shrimp cocktail 200 miles up, astronaut food has come a long way since its earliest days. Today’s space menu ranges from teriyaki vegetables to bread pudding to hot coffee, and Lockheed Martin food scientists are helping to ensure astronauts have the nourishment they need to perform their missions while getting a taste of home.

“At the Space Food Systems Laboratory we handle every aspect of provisioning food for the U.S. astronauts on the International Space Station, as well as planning food systems for the next generation of exploration vehicles and habitats,” said Kimberly Glaus Läte, Space Food Systems laboratory manager.

Space food formulation and production takes several factors into account. The prepackaged food is a crew’s only source of nutrition so careful consideration is taken to ensure all nutritional requirements are met to keep the crew performing at its best. The team also ensures the food is safe and easy to eat without much help from gravity. With no cold storage available, all food is either ready to eat or can be prepared simply by adding water or heating.

There’s also the psychological impact to consider – astronauts like comfort food! The food needs to be pleasant to eat to ensure the astronauts will eat it and maintain necessary caloric intake, while also providing a familiar experience in an unfamiliar environment.

“We currently offer 147 menu items and 51 different beverages,” explained Glaus Läte. “Astronauts on the International Space Station are often there for several months at a time, so we work to ensure they have variety and choice. We also send condiment packs including ketchup, mustard, salsa and hot sauce so that the astronauts can flavor food to their liking. We want them to enjoy what they’re eating.”

Lockheed Martin has supported the NASA Johnson Space Center Space Food Systems Laboratory for 25 years. It currently holds U.S. food production responsibilities for the International Space Station through the Bioastronautics contract on which Lockheed Martin is a subcontractor to Wyle.

story_highlights
  • Lockheed Martin food scientists are helping to ensure astronauts have the nourishment they need to perform their missions while getting a taste of home.
  • The prepackaged food is a crew’s only source of nutrition so careful consideration is taken to ensure all nutritional requirements are met to keep the crew performing at its best. 
  • There are currently 147 menu items and 51 different beverages available to Astronauts.