Ethnic Space Food (1989)

NASA scientists overcome thousands of problems in the successful launching of spacecraft. Many of their solutions have evolved into commercial applications used and enjoyed by millions of people.

Some of these innovations, such as powdered juice, freeze-dried solids and similar foods are now common table fare in most American homes.

However, with planning for future long-duration space flights manned by astronauts of different nationalities, a new food challenge has arisen. To find internationally acceptable foods that astronauts from any country can enjoy.

Dr. Selina Ahmed, associate professor of human nutrition at Texas Southern University, is the principle investigator for the International Food Patterns for Space Foods research project.

“Our main purpose is to enhance morale with familiar foods,” said Ahmed, a native of Bangladesh. The emphasis is on taste, aroma, nutritional value and packaging of ethnic cuisine from several countries.

Ahmed said her research also should help diet-oriented members of the astronaut health care team better understand and assist patients from other cultures during illness. The data should be useful to those who develop food plans for establishment of lunar colonies and missions to Mars.

Canadian, French, Japanese and Russian salads, soups, entrees and desserts were sampled in the initial evaluations. Foods approved by taste-testing panels will be packaged, stored and tested at three, six and nine-month intervals. Those foods passing the storage test are recommended for acceptance into the Space Nutrition Program. The SNP will assess the dishes' nutritional value.

This international cuisine may one day become the ultimate “way-out take-out” space food. Undoubtedly, the taste will be “out of this world”!