Space Cuisine: Astronauts' Culinary Adventures

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Space Cuisine: Astronauts' Culinary Adventures

Astronauts have long been subject to limited meal choices during space missions. However, advancements have significantly improved food options since the early days of space exploration. The growing frequency of extended space missions and the prospect of manned lunar flights have placed a greater emphasis on the importance of palatable dishes.

Meals consumed on the International Space Station (ISS) fall into two categories: the standardized menu provided by the United States and Russia, and bonus food items selected by the astronauts themselves. The bonus menu comprises approximately 15% of the total meals on the ISS.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) prioritizes the well-being of Japanese astronauts by developing specialized foodstuffs. These meals must meet specific criteria, including vacuum packaging, extended shelf life at room temperature, and compatibility with the zero-gravity environment to prevent spillage and equipment damage.

Since 2007, JAXA-certified space-oriented treats have been available, including packaged curry, yakitori, canned mackerel, burdock root, and seaweed. Onisi Foods Co., an emergency meal provider, is licensed to supply four products, including Alpha Rice, a wartime military ration that can be consumed by adding water.

In zero-gravity conditions, body fluids shift towards the upper body, affecting the sense of taste. To address this, JAXA uses a low-amylose rice variety, known for its glutinous texture and enhanced sweetness, in its space food.

Nissin Foods Holdings Co., famous for its Cup Noodle brand, has also developed space-oriented dishes. The company's founder recognized the potential of space as a launchpad for its products. Nissin's Space Ram dish, a modified version of Cup Noodle, was delivered to the ISS in 2005. The shorter noodles, bundled into bite-size blocks, prevented soup droplets from escaping and floating, preserving the full flavor of the ramen.