Photo: Kaptain Kobold, Flickr
Manned space flight may not have progressed much beyond the moon, but astronaut grub has come a long way. Since the 2009 release of The Astronaut's Cookbook: Tales, Recipes, and More by two veterans of NASA's food technology program, Americans who had long thought that our men and women in space were still subsisting on rations of Tang and chicken-in-tubes have been surprised to learn the truth: As a matter of fact, what's being eat up there among the stars doesn't sound that different from what you might see being served up on the Food Network.
To wit, Emeril Lagasse's spicy green beans have become an out-of-this-world favorite, while NASA is working to convert Top Chef contestant Angelo Sosa's ginger-lacquered short ribs with pea purée, pickled mushrooms and horseradish crème fraiche into space-worthy fare.
Sheesh, and it's hard to even get a bag of pretzels on an airplane anymore.
Last week, the authors of The Astronaut's Cookbook, Charles Bourland and Gregory Vogt, were on hand at the American Museum of Natural History in New York to host a tasting of space food. As Space.com reports, visitors sampled such delicacies as roasted chicken in sweet and sour sauce and mango-peach smoothies.
But before you take another bite of your PB&J and jealously wonder why you're not up in orbit enjoying five-star cuisine, remember that none of this stuff is actually cooked in outer space. Grilling, sautéing, even boiling -- all are too dangerous in zero gravity. Astronauts have to content themselves with good old rehydration instead, day in, day out.
Still, as Bourland and Vogt describe it, today's NASA menu options are light years beyond what the first astronauts had to content themselves with. As they put it, during the earliest missions, such as Mercury and Gemini, "space menu items consisted primarily of pureed foods in squeeze tubes, small cubed food items coated with an edible film to prevent crumbs, and freeze-dried powdered food items. It was agreed by most that early space food was, to say the least, unappetizing."