What's for dinner Rita?

What's for dinner Rita?

The last time I planned for lunch was probably when the hunger pangs hits, and luckily someone else is doing the cooking of dinner tonight, phew~ During the early mission days, breakfast, lunch, and dinner were planned months in advance right down to the day! The current technology and development had now given the astronauts much more freedom. They can taste test and plan out what they will have for the duration aboard the International Space Station ISS.

ISS food container

Let’s explore the evolution of it.

The first man in space Yuri Gagarin ate pureed meat from toothpaste tubes as he orbited the Earth in 1961. Here we see Apollo-Soyuz astronauts Thomas Stafford and Deke Slayton holding tubes labeled ‘vodka’ which really is just borscht. Not so fun fact for astronuats, alcohol or soda are not allowed in the orbits.

I had the chance to taste something similar when I was in the Space Pavilion at VDNKh park, Moscow a couple summer ago. We squeezed the pork with vegetable ‘ragu’ out of the tube, must say it was pretty good but got bland after a couple of bites.

As Americans follow Russian into space they developed new way - freeze-dried foods for the Project Mercury missions. However, at the mean time astronauts still had to eat off a tube and found the gelatin covered cube unappetizing and the newly developed freeze-dried food hard to rehydrate.

Luckily by the time of the Gemini missions in 1966, the flavors had improved significantly and the menu included shrimp cocktail, chicken and vegetables, and butterscotch pudding.

By the late 1960s, astronauts for the first time can eat hot food with a spoon in a special bowl. Eating with a spoon does make the food taste better! Interestingly the food's moisture made it stick to the spoon and not flying off as feared.

Other utensils were introduced in the 1970s with Skylab - the first U.S. space station. Since Skylab had freezers, meals were defrosted and reheated, the closest to an earth meal an astronauts could have.

ISS hosts astronauts from multi nations and it is no surprise that they bring along their cuisine as well. However, one thing remains common that is bread is now replaced by tortilla that produced no crumbs. The crumbs would be bad for the spacecraft as they can fly off get stuck in the intricate pieces of technology, the filters that keep the ISS running or worst an astronaut's eye! So what about salt and pepper? Well, other than posing the same danger, wouldn't it just float away. Well, Nasa got it cover with liquid salt and pepper! (Below picture: transparent bottle for salt and green for pepper)

Other condiments such as mayonnaise, mustard, wasabi and chili sauce are there to spice things up a little in space! And, the varienty of drinks options will just make astronauts forget that soda or alcohol even exist.

No one in space spends hours preparing meal. The vacuum-sealed packages food is ready in minutes, simply by placing it in a small warming oven or adding hot water.

Food is rehydrated onboard the ISS using its limited water supply. The ISS employs an extensive recycling program -- including air humidity and the astronauts' urine. hmmm..that sounds appetizing..

All food is secured with Velcro or bungee cords.

Rita Rapp

All these significant developments wouldn’t have been possible without Rita Rapp. She was among the early pioneers of the space program, who participated in manned launches since the first Mercury Mission. Rita was responsible for the design and development of food and packaging systems used on NASA Mission.

W’menswear AW19 mood board.

Rita had inspired us greatly in our research and development for pioneers who paved ways for women and in this case men as well to space. Her hard hitting perseverance, commitment and continuous effort in revolutionising meal time in space is somthing we at W'menswear truly admire.

So what's for dinner Rita?

'Although a foil pouch doesn’t look much like a delicious plate of food, Rita surprised the Apollo 8 astronauts with roast turkey and gravy to eat on Christmas Eve, 1968'

Kudos to the woman who got real food into space!

Images from NASA - Words by Buranee Soh

Reference: https://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/30/health/gallery/space-food/index.html, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

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