Posts Tagged ‘International Space Station’

Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

February 22, 2012

The first manned missions to outer space by both the United States and former USSR in 1961 were short trips that last no longer than two hours.  However, the former USSR went on to complete a few missions that lasted more than 24 hours before the US completed its first 24-hour space flight in 1963.  The increasing durations of the space flights by both the American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts make one thing very clear: at some point, the crew must eat.

Russian Borscht soup in a tube, consumed by cosmonauts in space | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Russian Borscht soup in a tube. Courtesy: Aliazimi

The first food delivery systems were, of all things, tubes.  They had the look and feel of a tube of toothpaste, but what came out of these tubes was anything but minty.  The former USSR’s Yuri Gagarin, who in 1961 became both the first human to travel into space and the first to orbit the earth, dined on three 160 g toothpaste-type tubes: two servings of puréed meat and one chocolate sauce.  The combined crew of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (1975) ate tubes of borscht and caviar, along with canned beef tongue and packaged Riga bread.

Space Food during Projects Mercury and Gemini | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Top: Project Mercury – Food cubes and tubes. Bottom: Project Gemini – Cubes and “rehydrater”.

While NASA effectively borrowed the food tube idea from the Russians, they also experimented with their own delivery system: bite-sized cubes with gelatin coatings to prevent crumbs.  During Project Mercury (1959-63) and Project Gemini (1965-66), foods were dehydrated before missions and rehydrated once in space, allowing the menu to expand over time to include the astronauts’ preferences.  Items such as shrimp cocktail, chicken and vegetables, toast squares, butterscotch pudding, and apple juice were available on the menu.  Even though rehydration methods improved during the Apollo program (1961-75), food presentation and presentation were still the same as during the previous space programs.

Skylab 2 astronauts eat space food in wardroom of Skylab trainer | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Left to right, Scientist-Astronaut Joseph P. Kerwin, science pilot; Astronaut Paul J. Weitz, pilot; and Astronaut Charles Conrad Jr., commander

By the time the United States’ space station, Skylab, was operational in the mid 1970s, astronauts indulged in “normal” meals.  The astronauts would literally come to the table during mealtimes.  A dining room table and chairs, fastened to the floor and fitted with foot and thigh restraints, allowed for a more normal eating experience.  The trays used could warm the food, and had magnets to hold eating utensils and scissors to open food containers.  Unfortunately, a new problem came to light.  The astronauts trained on the ground with the very food they brought with them to Skylab, so they fully expected the food to taste the same.  However, they soon realized that the microgravity environment dulled their senses of taste and smell due to a head congestion from weightlessness.

Food trays from the space station, Skylab, and the Space Shuttle | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Food trays from (top to bottom) Skylab and Space Shuttle.

The food tray developed for Skylab was apparently well-designed and deemed sufficient for the Space Shuttle program (1981-2011).  As you can see, the food trays between both space programs differ in design slightly, but the functionality, as well as mobility, of both trays allowed astronauts to take their food with them wherever they worked.

In 2009, the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” gave viewers a rare glimpse into the development of space food technology.  Andrew Zimmern, along with astronauts Michael Foreman, Leland Melvin, Michael Massimino, and Garrett Riesman, were presented with a number of food items that were flown on Space Shuttle missions and are currently available on the International Space Station.  They rated each food item and gave their thoughts and opinions of each item to the food scientists.  Andrew noted right away that a fruit punch drink was much sweeter than he anticipated, and other foods were very flavorful or spicy.  As previously discussed, past astronauts complained of dulled senses of taste and smell due to the microgravity environment.  Food scientists countered this phenomenon by preparing foods with extra flavor.

Here is a YouTube video from the Travel Channel where Andrew Zimmern samples space food:

The culmination of years of work by NASA’s food scientists can be seen below.

Bags of International Space Station food and utensils on a tray | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Bags of International Space Station food and utensils on a tray. Courtesy: NASA

Assorted bags of snack food and dehydrated food, as served on the ISS | Astronaut Chow: Space Food over the Years

Assorted bags of snack food and dehydrated food, as served on the ISS. Courtesy: NASA

What does the future hold for space food?  Apparently, we do not have to wait long for an answer to that question.  According to Mashable:

“[NASA] is looking for applicants to eat astronaut food for four months during a simulated trip to the Red Planet. Participants will try instant foods, and ones with shelf-stable ingredients, and scientists will record their reactions. The goal of the experiment is to discover what foods people like to consume consistently.”

If you want to shape the future of space food, NASA is giving you a chance to do so.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Francis Unson

Space Shuttle Atlantis’ Final Flight and the Fleet’s Museum Duty Prep

July 12, 2011

On July 8th, 2011, the Space Shuttle Atlantis took off on its last mission, STS-135NASA prepared extensively for the final 13-day flight that will close out the Space Shuttle Program.  Atlantis was moved to its launch pad at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 31, and lifted off on July 8 at 11:29 A.M. EDT (1529 GMT).  The shuttle rolled out to the launch pad just hours before its sister ship, Space Shuttle Endeavour, landed early morning on June 1, wrapping up STS-134, its own final mission: a 16-day delivery flight to the International Space Station.  The four-person astronaut crew has worked extremely hard to prepare for Atlantis’, and the Space Shuttle Program’s, last mission.

STS-135 marks the final flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Space Shuttle Program. The Space Shuttles must undergo extensive preparations before assuming museum duty.Many of you may be wondering what will happen to all the space shuttles after this last launch.  Well, the space shuttles are getting ready for their second lives as museum pieces.  The shuttles themselves will go through a lengthy clean-up process before they’re ready for their public debuts.  When a shuttle lands, it’s covered in hazards: liquid hydrogen and oxygen for fuel, ammonia for coolant, and live pyrotechnics for blowing out emergency escape windows.  “We have to remove those chemical hazards so that when it’s in a museum, the public can walk up to it without risk of things outgassing or dripping,” said NASA flow director Stephanie Stilson, who oversaw all the post-flight checkups and pre-flight preparations for Discovery’s last 11 trips to space and is now getting the remaining space shuttles ready for retirement.  Because of these space shuttles, we have been able to make many advances in science and technology.

Once the space shuttles are prepared and deemed safe for public viewing, we can view these magnificent space vehicles at museums around the country.  Space Shuttle Discovery will be located at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center just outside Washington, D.C.  Space Shuttle Endeavour will be located at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.  Space Shuttle Atlantis will be located at the Kennedy Space Center just outside Orlando, Florida.

Watch the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis, which took place on July 8, 2011.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Joie Montoya

NASA’s Manned Missions: Past and Present

May 24, 2011

Since 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has successfully launched over 100 manned flights into space.  The most successful space programs have been the following:

Project Mercury (1959-1963) – The first US-crewed program started in 1959, successfully completing six crewed missions.  Watch the first part of NASA’s documentary on Project Mercury below, as well as part two and part three.

Project Gemini (1963-1966) – NASA used this program to practice space rendezvous and EVAs, completing a run of ten crewed missions.  Part one of NASA’s documentary on Project Gemini (Gemini IV), below, along with part two and part three.

Apollo Program (1961-1975) – Even though there were a total of eleven crewed missions, Apollo 11 featured Man’s very first lunar landing.  Watch part one of NASA’s documentary, Apollo 11: For All Mankind, below, as well as part two, part three, and part four.

Skylab (1973-1974) – The first American space station featured three crewed missions, which took place in 1973 and 1974.  NASA’s documentary is in two parts: part one is below.

Apollo-Soyuz (1975) – A joint program with the Soviet Union, only one crewed mission took place, but it was historic, nonetheless.  Here are parts one (below), two, and three of NASA’s documentary.

Space Shuttle Program | Space Transportation System (STS) (1981-2011) – The longest running program has gone through 133 crewed missions and was the first to make use of reusable spacecrafts.  Watch parts one (below), two, and three of NASA’s documentary covering STS-1, Space Shuttle Columbia’s and, indeed, the entire Space Shuttle program’s, maiden flight.

Shuttle-Mir Program (1994-1998) – The result of a Russian partnership, this program completed eleven crewed missions.

International Space Station (ISS) (1998-present) – This is an ongoing collaboration with Russia, Canada, ESA, and JAXA along with co-operators, ASI and AEB.  27 expeditions have maintained a human presence in outer space since 1998, and 34 Space Shuttle missions played a critical role in the construction and delivery of supplies to the ISS.  The video below highlights STS-88, the first Space Shuttle mission to the ISS.

There have been many successes with NASA’s space programs.  Since 1959, there have only been three failures which resulted in the death of the crew, such as Apollo 1 in 1967, STS-51-L (the Challenger disaster) in 1986, and STS-107 (the Columbia disaster) in 2003.  Nonetheless, the purpose of the “Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans” is to examine ongoing and planned National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) development activities, as well as potential alternatives, and present options for advancing a safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable human space flight program in the years following Space Shuttle retirement.  I hope that, within the next few years, we continue to make many historic advances in our ongoing mission to uncover the secrets of outer space with today’s budding scientist and engineers in tomorrow’s fleet of spacecrafts.

With the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle program in 2011, let's look back at NASA's past human spaceflight programs; at first, in a Space Race with the former U.S.S.R. and, later on, in cooperation with them and other space agencies from the international community.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Joie Montoya

Skylab: The United States’ First Space Station

May 13, 2011

Skylab was the United States’ first space station.  Launched on May 14, 1973, NASA felt it needed to establish a separate space station from the International Space Station (ISS) for crew members to live in outer space.  Skylab orbited Earth 2,476 times during the 171 days and 13 hours of its occupation during the three manned Skylab missions.  Some of the solar experiments conducted on these missions included photographing eight solar flares and determining the existence of the Sun’s coronal holes.

NASA astronauts conducted three manned missions aboard Skylab, the United States' first space station. Before NASA had a chance to refurbish the space station, it came crashing to Earth in 1979.

Courtesy: NASA

Although Skylab was successful, it was abandoned after the end of the SL-4 mission in February 1974.  NASA had planned Space Shuttle missions to reuse Skylab.

  1. An early Shuttle flight would boost Skylab to a higher orbit, adding five years to Skylab’s operational lifespan.  While the shuttle might have pushed or towed the station into orbit, attaching a booster—the Teleoperated Retrieval System (TRS)—to the station was more likely, based on astronauts’ training for the task.  Martin Marietta won the contract for the $26 million TRS, which contained about three tons of propellant, and began work in April 1978.
  2. In two shuttle flights, Skylab would be refurbished.  In January 1982, the first mission would attach a docking adapter and conduct repairs.  In August 1983, a second crew would replace several system components.
  3. In March 1984, shuttle crews would attach a solar-powered Power Expansion Package, refurbish scientific equipment, and conduct 30- to 90-day missions using the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) and the earth resources experiments.
  4. Over five years, Skylab would be expanded to accommodate six to eight astronauts, with a new large docking/interface module, additional logistics modules, Spacelab modules and pallets, and an orbital vehicle space dock using the shuttle’s external tank.

The first three phases would have required about $60 million in 1980s dollars, not including launch costs.  However, due to delays in preparing the Space Shuttles by about two years, NASA decided to abandon all plans for boosting the station, and allowed it to reenter Earth’s atmosphere.  As of today, NASA continues to look for alternatives to Skylab.

NASA produced a documentary about Skylab.  Here is the first part:

Here is the second part:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Joie Montoya