What’s it like to design a meal that floats?

By Alana Chandler

Just a few of the many harsh awakenings I’ve had during my time here on Earth: The tooth fairy is fake, climate change is real, and space food is not as pretty as pop culture makes it seem.

Stardust-sprinkled luminescent orbs and Dua Lipa-infused cotton candy are replaced with the reality of vacuum-sealed hunks of dehydrated meat and powdered stews. Today’s space food focuses on practicality over aesthetics, but behind what might look like forensic evidence lies meticulous engineering. Shelf stability, nutrition content, mass minimization for transport, and ease of consumability in a zero gravity-environment are some issues carefully considered by NASA’s food scientists. It’s a wondrous feat of engineering that, in the lifeless void of space, astronauts can still enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, albeit made with a tortilla instead of fluffy bread. (Like the ultimate neat freak, NASA doesn’t allow bread on space missions because it can make crumbs that can cause significant damage to equipment and human lungs as they float around.)

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