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Dining In Space

Would food fly off a plate in space? Would astronauts have digestive problems? Learn the science behind space food!

two astronauts sit while their burgers float in the air

Photo: NASA

The main course for these two NASA astronauts is floating hamburgers!

In the 1960s, during the earliest space flights, no one knew exactly how weightlessness would affect eating and drinking.

Grab A Bite!

Would food fly off a plate? Would astronauts have digestive problems, with no gravity to help things along the digestive system? The first astronauts ate rather unappealing food pastes squeezed directly into the mouth from toothpaste-like tubes. Yuck!

Today, astronauts eat a variety of foods like steak, shrimp cocktail, strawberries and butterscotch pudding. Each food is made as appetizing and simple to prepare as possible. Steak, for example, is cooked here on earth and sealed into a reheatable pack. Strawberries are freeze dried, keeping their shape and texture when they’re rehydrated. It’s easy to get water in space, because the fuel cells that supply electricity for spacecraft produce water as a byproduct.

Trapping Food

Containers of food have to be taped, magnetized, or velcroed to trays, and astronauts usually dine with foot restraints on-unless they feel like floating around! There’s usually enough liquid surface tension to keep food in its container, but bump a plate or fork, and watch your dinner drift away!

Liquids are even trickier. Juice won’t pour out of a container, but simply stays inside. If you shook it out, little globs of juice would fly everywhere! That’s why liquids are squirted directly into the mouth or sucked in with a straw from a sealed container. Once food is in the mouth, there’s no problem swallowing or digesting.

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