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What Astronauts Eat and Drink in Space Flight

Updated on February 26, 2014


Most foods for astronauts in spaceflight are precooked and processed

By Conrado D. Fontanilla

For one day, an astronaut needs 2,800 calories of energy derived from 16% to 17% protein, 30% to 32 % fat, and 50% to 54% carbohydrates.

Food for astronauts must contain vitamins and minerals at recommended daily allowance to perform in space. Food menus are designed by dietitians of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

An astronaut must eat four times a day, with an interval of 4 to 5 hours.

(This piece of information could be sobering to a hypoglycemic that seems to think that eating that frequent is gluttony. They space their meals much farther apart to avoid diabetes or obesity but results in hypoglycemic attack instead. I have a Hub "How to Counter Hypoglycema (Low Blood Sugar)"

Pre-launch meal must be light to avoid nausea at launch time.

Food for Space shuttle astronauts

Shuttle astronauts may have at least three balanced meals a day. The package of food item is color-coded. Food items can be substituted to please the palate. Astronauts can design their own menus that meet the daily food requirements.

Galley is the equivalent of a kitchen in a shuttle bus. It is a knock-down structure installed in middeck that can be removed if more space inside the shuttle is needed. The galley has a water dispenser, comfort room, an oven, storage for meal tray and condiments, and space to move about during food preparation.

The water dispenser is for rehydrating food; the oven for warming food inside packages and foil pouches.

An astronaut can take sponge bath only in the personal hygiene station to prevent water from escaping into the atmosphere of the spacecraft.

It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to prepare a meal for four astronauts.

Each shuttle flight stores extra food good for two days. Fresh fruits and snacks are provided. Each astronaut is allocated 1.5 kilos of food per day. Food items are precooked or processed, ready to eat, added with water, or heated. Steak and smoked turkey are irradiated, partly to eliminate microbes.

What is the source of water in a spaceflight? The hydrogen and oxygen carried on board when mixed by fuel cells to provide electricity also produce water. Cream of mushroom, soups, chili macaroni, chicken rice, shrimp, cocktail, scrambled eggs and cereal are packed in hydratable containers. Vegetables are freeze-dried. Peach ambrosia and strawberries are also freeze-dried. Puddings, fruits, tuna and salmon are thermostabilized. Beef, gravy, sliced beef with sauce, and ham are packed in flexible pouches.

Food allowed to contain small amount of water are dried beef, pears, peaches, and apricots. (Water adds to weight of spacecraft.)

Condiments include catsup, mayonnaise, mustard, hot pepper sauce and taco sauce. Liquid pepper and liquid salt are loaded in polyethylene dropper bottles.

Other food items are corn flakes, orange, pineapple, pecan cookies, cocoa, asparagus, granola, vanilla, butter cookies, green beans, potatoes au gratin and grape drink.

Food for Mercury astronauts

Astronauts had bite-sized cubes, semiliquids in tubes, and freeze-dried powders. Foods are unappetizing, according to astronauts. Crumbs floated in the cabin putting instruments at risk of being fouled.

John Glenn was the first American to eat in Earth orbit at near weightlessness. He found “eating fairly easy but found the menu appalling” (Magill, F. N. Editor. “Food and Diet for Space Travel.” Magill’s Survey of Science, Space Exploration Series. 1989:456).

Food for Gemini astronauts

For astronauts in the Gemini missions in the mid-1960s, squeeze tubes were discontinued. To reduce crumbling, bite-sized cubes were coated with gelatin. Plastic containers made for easier reconstitution of freeze-dried foods. Adding water was difficult.

Chicken, vegetables, shrimp cocktail, butterscotch pudding, and applesauce were available for Gemini astronauts.

Food for Apollo astronauts

Variety and quality of foods for the Apollo astronauts in 1968 were vastly improved. However, food items were similar. For the first time, astronauts had hot water that made rehydrating easier and improved the taste.

Food for Skylab astronauts

Astronauts had a wide variety of food items, 72 in all. The Skylab had a refrigerator and freezer.

There was ample space for a dining room. Footholds were provided where astronauts could “sit” and eat around a table.

Development of food for astronauts

From the start, dietitians and nutritionist at NASA wanted to find out if there is a relationship between the diet of astronauts and spacesickness. So far, no definite answer.

Guidelines in developing food for astronauts concern size, weight, microbial content, health, and safety. Of course, included is to ensure success of spaceflight mission. There is still a lot of room for improvement.


Submit a Comment
  • conradofontanilla profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Philippines


    They drink water and juice. But now manned spaceflight has been abandoned. Thanks for stopping by.

  • profile image


    6 years ago



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