Remember in third-grade science class when astronaut ice cream blew your mind? That was cool in context of lava lamps and baking soda volcanoes, sure, but now imagine eating that stuff over and over again, weeks at a time. The novelty of it would run out pretty damn quickly.
That’s been a challenge for astronauts in space—escaping routine, especially when it comes to mealtime. And there’s a reason for that—eating in space is a tricky thing, where even bread crumbs are viewed as potentially destructive and dangerous.
But if we can push the frontiers of mankind into the great black void, then certainly we can improve our meal plans. Since 2012, scientists have been working tirelessly to improve “menu fatigue,” by staging experiments on barren lava fields in Hawaii. Breweries and distilleries have also been testing the effects that zero-gravity on their product, seeing if they can gain any new insight.
Here we take a look at the next generation of space food—with the hopes that these #struggle space cheeseburgers are something of the past.
1. Zero Gravity Coffee Cups.
Drinking anything in space is a huge hassle. However, scientists have come one step closer to solving the problem with zero gravity coffee cups. The cup has one side with a sharp corner, allowing capillary forces to move the liquid right to your lips. Astronaut Don Pettit, one of the scientists that helped with the experiment, said the cup might be “what future space colonists use when they want to have a celebration.” In fact, if you check out the patented device the list of uses does include “toasting”. Cheers.
2. A Test Lab for Whiskey.
The International Space Station was recently gifted with some whiskey samples from Japanese distillery Suntory in order to study how whiskey ages in zero gravity. Suntory’s scientists believe that the microgravity might help the “mellowing” or aging process that helps whiskey and other alcohols get a smoother taste. However, Suntory isn’t the first whiskey distillery to send whiskey into space. In 2011 Ardbeg distillery sent whiskey and pieces of oak to the space station to conduct a similar study. While the science behind the idea is still questionable, we hope for a brighter future in smooth tasting alcohol. (Photo: Wikipedia/ Hammersbach)
3. Save Your Sh*t. Literally.
NASA recently gave Clemson University $200,000 to study how they could turn human feces into food. Titled the “Synthetic Biology for Recycling Human Waste into Food, Nutraceuticals, and Materials: Closing the Loop for Long-Term Space Travel,” the project is trying to diversify astronauts diets. While consuming human feces seems like a sustainable concept, we hope scientists find other ways of nourishing us once we all live on WALL-E style spaceships. (Photo: Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
— NASA (@NASA) August 10, 2015
NASA’s food initiative will now let astronauts make a salad from space-grown lettuce, allowing astronauts to have access to a replenishing food source. The system is collapsible and employs LED lights for plant growth, so that crew members can visually monitor the system. Flowers are also growing on the space station so scientists can study pollination in a zero gravity environment.
5. Burrito Suits Are Saving Lives.
Perhaps one of the best inventions so far is the NASA heat shield. NASA partnered with Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to create heat suits for firefighters in extreme temperatures. In a demonstration of the suit, we can see a man slipping into a foil-like cover, as though he were channeling the power of a Chipotle burrito. If you consider the past relationship between astronauts and tortillas, it’s not too far of a stretch.
6. Brewing Innovation.
In 2014, Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing launched yeast into space with the hopes of brewing beer with it as part of their Ninkasi Space Program (NSP). While the properties of the yeast were not know to have changed, it was a crucial first step in testing aerospace x brewing possibilities. The yeast spent about four minutes in space before it was successfully recovered by the NSP task force. The bottles of the space yeast brew were sold for nearly $20 a pop.
7. A Foodie’s Paradise.
Space food has become a lot more ambitious in recent years. Dutch astronaut André Kuipers brought nine bonus containers of gouda cheese to share with the crew at the International Space Station. Even more impressive, astronaut and sushi chef Soichi Noguchi prepared a few rolls of sushi for his fellow space scientists in zero gravity. NASA is now experimenting with Malaysian food in space, starting a project that will bring nine types of Malaysian food to space for taste testing.