Astronauts have come a long way with regard to how they eat in space, from Tang and freeze-dried meals that they had to suck through a straw, to actually eating heated or even cooked meals on tables or trays, with forks and spoons, in the galley. Technology has made life in Space a lot easier on the astronauts and specialists who have to live and work in that cold, dark and lonely environment. Knowing all too well how they used to eat in space, how do astronauts eat in space now?
Astronauts are given enough meals for a proper daily supply of 3 square meals, plus some light snacking. They can eat as many rations as they need or require in one meal, as there are more than enough rations per flight for a 30 day emergency contingency for each astronaut. Drinks are mostly powdered, to save on space in the Shuttles as well as cost, since water weighs about a pound a litre. In order to bring enough water for all the astronauts to have enough drinking, cooking and cleaning water, the cost to bring that much water into space, as well as the space that that water would take up is far too much.
When in space, astronauts use utensils, like forks and spoons, and eat their cooked meals off of trays, inside the galley. Mission critical electronics and other necessary panels are not found in the galley, for the sole purpose of safeguarding against spills and other problems associated with eating and drinking in weightless environments. If not contained while in space, liquids would float around the International Space Station (ISS), or the Space Shuttles, possibly shorting out major electronics and life-control systems.
Convectional ovens are used to heat the meats and other foodstuffs that are cookable. Each astronaut is given the privilege of choosing a few meals that they prefer, like chicken, fish, spaghetti or beef, and some special meals are prepared and packaged specially for each astronaut in advance. However, the old standby of the packaged army ration meals, where you simply just add water to the dehydrated powders, heat and suck your meal through a straw are still prevalent in space today. They are just not the only way of eating, but safety is of the utmost concern, therefore foods that may break up and foul electronic systems are taboo, like loose liquids, potato chips or any other small-particle snacks.
In order to save on the transportation costs, recycled water, water from condensation, and moisture from the astronaut’s breath is cleaned and used for hydrating the drinks, cooking, cleaning and bathing. Soda pops are not used for drinking in space, as the gas was shown to cause rather embarrassing moments for the astronauts. So, with that in mind, orange and other juices and powdered milk have taken the Tang out of space.
Astronaut’s meals can now be eaten from trays that are either strapped to a table or chair, or to the astronaut’s lap, making meal time less time consuming, more enjoyable and tasty, since taste is affected by the weightless environment.