Can astronauts cook on the ISS?

08 January 2019

Question

Can you actually cook in space?

Answer

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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