Astronauts' Favorite Space Food: Shrimp Cocktail

Val Thoermer/

It's rehydrated, ghastly pink, a little bit slimy ... and apparently delicious

Here's the thing about space food. While it might seem exotic to people here on Earth -- to people who live in some relative proximity to a farm or a grocery store -- space food is awesome only in the sense that it is eaten in space. Otherwise, the stuff is not at all awesome. Space food tends to be dry. Or else slimy. Or else just weird: different enough from the product it's trying to emulate that it serves only as a sad reminder of what it is not. Space food -- when actually consumed, rather than bought at a gift shop -- is pretty horrendous. 

This is compounded by an unfortunate circumstance of space life: Microgravity affects humans' taste buds, making it hard for astronauts to taste flavors in their food even when those flavors are technically present and technically delicious. Without gravity to pull blood toward the feet, especially during the first few days in space, "your head sort of inflates like someone is squeezing the bottom of a balloon," explains current astronaut Chris Hadfield. The results are clogged sinuses and the hindered flavor reception that comes with them. "It's kind of like having a cold; you're kind of stuffy,'' Charles Bourland, formerly NASA's manager for space station food, puts it.

So NASA has teams dedicated to imagining, and then manufacturing, foods that will prove maximally nutritious and minimally disgusting to the men and women who must eat them. Over the years, via cube and tube and bar and powder and dehydration and rehydration, space agency scientists have found ways to make things like steak and apple sauce and peanut butter cookies suited to the many vagaries of space. They have developed a veritable cornucopia of freeze-dried, vacuum-packed, crumb-reducing, and morale-boosting delicacies. 

Read more at The Atlantic

(Image via Val Thoermer/