Space Food

View item information

"Food for space flight" from the series NASA facts. 1968. Courtesy of University of Illinois via HathiTrust.

Dining in space, a weightless environment, brought with it some unusual challenges. There were limitations on weight and storage, a lack of refrigeration, and considerations had to be made to keep food from floating away.

It was unclear if normal digestion occurred when in outer space. Aboard Friendship 7 in 1962, John Glenn consumed applesauce in a tube and sugar tablets with water, making him the first American to ingest food in space. The space food developed by NASA next was generally unappetizing, consisting of puréed food sucked through a straw or small cubes of dehydrated food. Crumbs posed potential problems as they could become lodged in instrumentation or even an astronaut’s nostril.

With the Gemini missions, during the early to mid 1960s, came freeze-dried food that was easily rehydrated by injecting water into the package. By the Apollo missions of the late 1960s to early 1970s, astronauts could use utensils, which were attached to trays with magnets or Velcro to keep them from floating away. Pouches, or wet packs, were also introduced, letting astronauts enjoy beef sandwiches and chocolate pudding without rehydration. The wetness of the food allowed it to remain on the spoon instead of floating away. On Christmas Eve, 1968, crewmen aboard Apollo 8 even enjoyed a fruitcake wetpack.