This week, another group of private astronauts arrived at the International Space Station.
They work for Space X, and will do scientific experiments and community outreach, like talking to school kids from space.
NASA is still the main organization looking after space missions, but in today’s world, space is another industry with partnerships and commercial opportunities.
Did you know there have been people on the International Space Station (ISS) since November 2000? Not the same people, but always crew members there working, and scientists there doing experiments and researching all kinds of things. It made me wonder, they can’t work all the time, so what else do they do? What do they eat, and where do they eat? Is there a canteen or a “restaurant?”
Although there is a recently added “habitat module” that is part of the ISS, it is currently only used for scientific purposes. It is helping scientists understand how future tourist businesses might exist in space someday. For now, the astronauts’ activities outside their work include intense exercise to keep them in shape and eating food in packages.
The environment of space, with its microgravity, makes everything more challenging than we are used to. Cutting hair is done with a vacuum attachment so the pieces of cut hair don’t clog important air filters. Astronauts strap themselves onto the toilet when using it. At mealtime, food must be contained, with containers often being anchored on a tray with Velcro or magnets. An important table utensil is a pair of scissors to open packages.
I also discovered one’s sense of taste is inhibited in space. Because our bodily fluids are not drawn lower in your body from gravity, their even distribution means the faces of those in space get puffy and their sinuses get congested. Astronauts generally prefer eating intensely flavoured foods because they only taste as much as they would when having a cold.
Food in space must have a long shelf life, of course, so much of it is freeze-dried. Astronauts even get freeze-dried ice cream. Some items like nuts, granola bars, cookies and other pantry items can be simply repackaged and then processed with heat or radiation to kill any bacteria. Items that might leave crumbs, like bread, are not allowed. (They can clog the filters just like hair.)
Some food items have been popular in space since the beginning. Did you know they still stock Tang as a beverage of choice for the crew on the ISS? It was adapted by NASA years ago to use in space, and with its excellent source of vitamin C, it is still a good choice.
If you are someone who likes leftovers or doesn’t like eating all their veggies, I’m sorry but you can’t stay on the space station. Meals are calculated carefully to ensure astronauts get all the necessary calories. Can you imagine how smelly garbage would be in that kind of closed environment?
So, it seems the possibility of a restaurant in space is not going to happen very soon. But I do see some serious opportunities if private companies continue to partner with NASA and other space agencies to explore the universe.
As a devoted food lover, I am not in a hurry to sample food I can hardly taste that was rehydrated or irradiated. Even watching all those Star Trek episodes, I was never convinced the food coming out of those space-age dumbwaiters looked worthwhile.
I’m sure the view from a restaurant in space would be a fantastic selling point but I think I’ll wait to make my reservation until the beverage list is expanded beyond Tang.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.