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Nutrition. 2002 Oct;18(10):913-20.

NASA food systems: past, present, and future.

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  • 1National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Houston, Texas 77058, USA.


The development of space food has been evolving since the Soviet cosmonaut, German Titov, became the first human to eat in space in August 1961. John Glenn was the first American to consume food, applesauce, on the third manned Mercury mission in August 1962. Before these events, there was no knowledge that humans would be able to swallow and, hence, eat in weightlessness. Space food development began with highly engineered foods that met rigid requirements imposed by spacecraft design and short mission durations. Improvements in the habitability of the spacecraft have permitted improvements in the quality of space food. As the missions became longer, the need for better nutrition, more variety, and easily consumable foods also became more important. Currently, the International Space Station astronauts have a wide variety of foods. The goal is to provide acceptable foods that taste similar to foods we eat here on Earth. Extended planetary stays will require even more variety and more technologic advances. Plants will be grown to recycle the air and water and will provide food for the crew. These harvested crops will need to be processed into safe, healthy, and acceptable food ingredients that can then be prepared into menu items.

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