Former NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino’s Guide to Eating in Space
An Astronaut’s Guide to Eating in Space
A trip to the International Space Station is like a very expensive, high-tech camping trip . When you’re more than 200 miles above Earth’s surface, you have to do without many of the luxuries of home, like pillows and personal space. But in other respects, the daily life of an astronaut is all too familiar: They hit the gym, write emails, watch TV, and even make time for a “family” dinner. Astronauts—they’re just like us!For Mike Massimino, a former NASA shuttle astronaut, one of the biggest adjustments to life in space was the food. “The tragedy of spaceflight is that you can’t get pizza in space,” Massimino says. “There was some pizza flown recently, but I don’t know what it tasted like. I’m very skeptical.”Although the ISS might not be earning a Michelin star anytime soon, the fare isn’t too bad, all things considered. There’s an entire lab at the Johnson Space Center dedicated to the culinary arts, where NASA chefs—ahem, food technologists—spend their days designing meals that strike the right balance between taste and nutrition. Before an astronaut is launched into space, they visit the food lab to do a taste test, which helps NASA design menus for their mission.
The end result is a suite of foods specially tailored for the unique challenges of the space environment. All the meals come prepackaged, to minimize prep time and the chance of a spill. That means no bread, which produces a lot of runaway crumbs, Still, astronauts have a wide range of food to choose from. There’s coffee, brownies, pasta, and scrambled eggs, as well as favorite snacks from home like M&Ms and Goldfish.
Massimino says he particularly liked NASA’s macaroni and cheese—so much, in fact, that he is one of the few astronauts to have gained weight in space. Just don’t get him started on the so-called “astronaut ice cream” famous in gift shops the world over, which he says is “more closely related to a building material than it is to a food.”
To learn more about why hot sauce is an astronaut’s best friend and how to raid your mission commander’s fridge without getting caught, check out our new video on food in space.