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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Astronaut Food

While most people look forward to seeing major artifacts like the lunar modules, spacecrafts and early airplanes at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum I couldn't wait to see an exhibit of food eaten in space.

I guess my facination with space food began when a sporting goods store opened up around the corner from my home and sold various types of dehydrated foods for backpacking. The food dehyrdation technology was developed in the 1960's for use on space missions. Some of the food was rehydrated using water in space (or in the back country, as the case may be) and some was eaten dehydrated. Apparently the rehydrated meals were none too tasty, according to the Gemini astronauts, among the first to eat meals in space. I understand from backpackers that it wasn't much improved when sold to them either. The history of food in space has lots of unappetizing experiments that astronauts suffered through.

But the product that my sister and I indulged in with glee was freeze-dried ice cream. A crunchy styrofoam textured food, it was designed to be light and bite-sized and therefore easy to eat in a weightless environment. So it was as much nostalgia for our special snack as anything else that led me to purchase both freeze-dried ice cream and freeze-dried strawberries at the museum gift shop. It sure looked a whole lot more appetizing than the tin trays and tubes of space food on display...