We were looking forward to the “Space Food Tasting” training that was
conducted this month. Although the three daily food menus balance nutrients
and calories, the astronaut’s favorite is also fully considered because
mealtime is one of the few times for busy astronauts to relax.

Since there is no food refrigerator in the space shuttle or on the
International Space Station (ISS), space foods must be preserved for a long
time. Space foods must also be easy to eat in a microgravity environment and
must not scatter. For example, cracker crumbs that may scatter have been
removed, and juicy foods have improved stickiness so they adhere to a spoon.

Space foods are made using three manufacturing (preservation) methods. The
first is freeze-drying in which foods are dehydrated before eating. The
second is to use a retortable pouch such as commonly used in foods like
Japanese. These foods need only be heated in an oven before being eaten. The
third method needs no processing, although foods have a limited preservation
period. Such foods are said to be in the natural form, and include chocolate
and bread.

NASA has about 200 kinds of space foods, and is incorporating foreign foods
in anticipating of the ISS era. At this food tasting, we tasted about 50
kinds of foods and focused on adding new menu items. I will introduce some
of them with my comments.

  • Mexican scrambled eggs: Spicy! And taste good.
  • Gumbo soup: Famous soup in Texas. Contains Gumbo and rice.
  • Beef enchiladas: Typical Mexican food also eaten in space.
  • Chicken salad: Healthy!
  • Vegetable risotto: I recommend this to vegetarians. Not so greasy.
  • Lasagna: Italian foods are also available. It was delicious because it
  • included meat.
  • Sauteed tofu: Tofu is an international health food now but tofu eaten in
  • Japan may be the most delicious.
  • Teriyaki chicken: Teriyaki and tofu are both popular in the United States.

There was one more food tasting trial. In preparation for Japanese
astronauts’ staying on the ISS, I brought several selected Japanese instant
foods and had crew members try them.

The crew members tried Japanese tea, powdered soup, instant noodles, eel
kabayaki (broiled eel), curry and rice, and dessert (sweet jelly of beans
and chocolate confectionery). Although some crew members had not tried
Japanese foods, they were pleased with these tastes, and said we should take
the extra Japanese foods to the astronauts staying on in the ISS. (Actually,
since the expedition 4 crew liked curry and rice, the requested curry was
carried to the ISS).

Instant noodles, as “ramen”, were proposed in the Kibo utilization
feasibility study through which NASDA solicited Kibo utilization. Although
packing had to be improved, crew members rated the foods as very good.
During the STS-114 mission, I’m going to eat “ramen” in space for the first
time. Do noodles rehydrate as expected in a microgravity environment? Are
noodles and soup mixed well? Is the taste good? Please wait for my “ramen”
report from the ISS!