02 December 2006

Figs in space

Well, maybe not figs, but the folks up in the space station have to eat something, right?

According to the Mercury News:
[The space shuttle] Discovery is set for a nighttime launch on Dec. 7, the start of 12 days in space. It will be the first night launch in four years.

And this mission will have more rookie astronauts than any flight in years - five have never been to space before. The two veterans are Mark Polansky, the commander, and Robert Curbeam, who will spacewalk three times. The others are pilot William Oefelein, and mission specialists Joan Higginbotham, Nicholas Patrick, Sunita Williams and the European Space Agency's Christer Fuglesang, who will become the first Swede in space.

Discovery will deliver an $11 million addition to the space lab, release three small satellites on the return trip home and bring home one of the space station's three crew members, German astronaut Thomas Reiter of the European Space Agency. U.S. astronaut Williams will replace him, staying for six months.

As for the food, USA Today says:
For astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, shuttle Discovery's scheduled delivery this month of a key girder to the International Space Station means more than just new hardware for the orbiting lab.
Lopez-Alegria, who's lived on the station since September, will get 22 packets of instant latte to add to his dwindling stash.

Food tends to be an afterthought on space shuttle missions. But NASA officials have slowly come to realize that food is central to the well-being of the astronauts living on the space station.

Station crews spend six months confined in a plastic-and-titanium box without greenery or fresh air. Food is a rare sensory pleasure on the station, something to look forward to amid the grinding work of keeping the place shipshape and conducting scientific research.

As a retired submariner (who was it that said submariners were the logical people to serve as space-station crews?), I can definitely agree that food is important for people doing long cruises like this. And these guys don't even get to hit a liberty port during their deployments.
At the request of the astronaut office, future crews will have to settle for a standard menu rather than favored dishes. The upside: the menu will repeat every 16 days — rather than the current 10 — giving them more menu variety.

After the switch, station residents will eat food from three categories, just as they do now:

•American. Most items are either freeze-dried (add water and serve) or sealed in pouches after being precooked to kill germs (ready to be reheated in space). Entrees range from meatloaf to fajitas.

•Russian. Half the station is operated by Russia, which also supplies half the food. Packaged mostly in cans, it includes novelties such as jellied meat and buckwheat gruel.

•Bonus foods. For each month of their stay, station crewmembers pack a locker about as big as a shoebox with treats that have a long shelf life. Former station resident Ed Lu took dried calamari, among other things. Lopez-Alegria, who was born in Madrid, opted for a special Spanish ham.

In the meantime, though, Discovery will be carrying more than just latte and satellites. From another USA Today article:
No more goop-in-a-tube for America's hungry astronauts.
Space shuttle Discovery, slated to launch Dec. 7, will carry Thai chicken and two other dishes devised by Food Network star and TV talk show host Rachael Ray. They're the first meals from a food celebrity to fly on the shuttle.


Space station astronauts have already sampled celebrity food. Emeril Lagasse's jambalaya and mashed potatoes with bacon were devoured on the station in August. German station resident Thomas Reiter told Lagasse, famous for his New Orleans-style fare, that it was "perfect" for satisfying the crew's "longing … for spicy food."

Oh, and in addition to the other things:
The seven Discovery astronauts will help expand and rewire the International Space Station.

No comments: