Can astronauts cook on the ISS?

How do astronauts cook in space?
08 January 2019



Can you actually cook in space?


Space Boffin Richard Hollingham answered this question, from Gail...

Chris - Can you actually cook food in space what is an astronaut diet like?

Richard - They've got better and better. Essentially, you are heating up components of food. So there's still heating up things in an enclosed environment; and almost everything - so the things you miss - I think from what I can gather from astronauts, taste is affected the same way if you're in a pressurised environment of the aircraft: things don't taste the same. So they do tend to prefer spicier foods. They've also got to gel together, because crumbs are a real problem! So you don't want you know crumbs of your food getting into a crucial instrument! So this actually happened on a mission in the 1960s - one of the Gemini missions, before the Apollo missions - that went to the moon, John Young smuggled up a corned beef sandwich in his capsule, which was all a great joke and everything... until crumbs started getting into the instrumentation! 

Chris - What happened?


Richard - Well it was fine, but it might not have been; so, you know, as a result of taking up a sandwich with with crumbs in, it could have been a real problem!

Chris - What appeals to me - because I like dunking, and that's a big problem because if you "over-dunk" and then your biscuit goes "flop", you've got an issue with your tea haven't you? Whereas, in space, I could dunk with impunity couldn't I, for much longer potentially...?

Richard - But you'd have to do that within a bag, because you can't obviously have a cup of tea...

Chris - If you didn't accelerate the fluid it would stay in the cup wouldn't it?

Richard - Yeah. Well try doing that! Try lifting up a cup of tea without accelerating the fluid! So you lift up a cup of tea and the tea comes out. So it just floats around around you. So yeah it's the sealed environment; so for obvious reasons there's no deep-fat fryer on the space station! It's more a question of heating up things but heating up components of a meal so they can put together a meal - they could heat up, for example, a stew and then heat up some bread, or have some pasta and a sauce. So it's kind of pulling the components together. There is also coffee maker on the space station, so there is espresso coffee!

Chris - I never thought I would learn about corned beef sandwiches on the Naked Scientist so thanks very much for that Richard!


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