What Foods do Astronauts Eat in Space?

Kathy Hawkins
Kathy Hawkins
Astronauts typically rely on freeze-dried foods that are rehydrated in space.
Astronauts typically rely on freeze-dried foods that are rehydrated in space.

When astronauts leave for a mission, they will not be able to refrigerate their food, so anything they take along must be nonperishable. The space food that they bring must also be easy to eat without making a mess, since the astronauts will be outside the gravitational field, and any crumbs could float around and get stuck in equipment or in the astronauts' eyes. Because astronauts will often be in space for weeks or months at a time, they are usually unable to bring fresh food, such as fruit and vegetables, on board the craft.

Flour torillas are preferred over bread, which tends to crumble.
Flour torillas are preferred over bread, which tends to crumble.

Many types of space food are dehydrated, or freeze-dried, and sealed. When an astronaut is ready to eat, he or she can add water to rehydrate the meal so that it will be edible. Though there is no refrigerator on board a spacecraft, there is an oven, so astronauts are able to heat up or bake their meals as necessary.

While in space, astronauts generally use flour tortillas for sandwiches, rather than bread. This is because bread can have a lot of crumbs, which will float around in the vehicle. For condiments, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise are provided in their standard forms, but salt and pepper are provided only as liquids, because the powdered version would be likely to float away.

US astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the Moon.
US astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the Moon.

Today, a wide variety of menu items are available for astronauts as space food. They can choose from meals including beef stroganoff, chicken teriyaki, and turkey tetrazzini. Typically, an astronaut will have the chance to decide his own meals from a menu list well in advance of launch.

Food is provided in disposable containers that can be attached to the astronaut's meal tray, which is strapped to his lap, so that the containers do not float freely in space. The astronaut must consume each part of the meal separately, not starting on another course until the previous one is finished. Once the meal has been eaten, the packaging must be disposed of and is put into a trash compactor to eliminate waste.

In recent years, some chefs have begun to experiment with creating meals for astronauts. Celebrity chefs, including Emeril Legasse and Rachael Ray, have designed meals that have been offered on space flights.

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Discussion Comments

anon1000073

What do you think would happen if they vomited in space? I think some of their stomach lining would come out with the vomit.

anon997046

What types of food do they bring and explain better please.

anon324020

I'm in sixth grade wondering what do astronauts eat instead of bread and why?

anon318759

Why do astronauts need to exercise!

ZipLine
@clippers-- Apparently, they do. I didn't know this either but I read it in the news recently. They sent ice cream to the astronauts in a "cargo capsule." And I'm not talking about the freeze-dried stuff, but real ice cream. I think they had a freezer in the capsule or something so the ice cream stayed cold.

Those astronauts must have been so happy when they got it. I think the freeze dried ice cream is going to be history soon. It's not good anyway.

burcidi
@anon50132-- They do have lots of food choices. It's not as bad as it sounds. Like the article said, they can pre-request all they want to eat and it will be prepared for them.

It's also not required that everyone eat the same foods. So an Asian astronaut can have his rice and the American astronaut can have his hamburger in the same shuttle.

They are also allowed some fresh fruit, as long as it's not messy. So things like apples, tomatoes and oranges are fine.

fify
So everything they eat has to be in liquid form or in one piece so that it doesn't float around and damage equipment?

Doesn't liquid float up too though?

clippers
Do the astronauts ever get care packages of things they crave from back on earth? Some of them stay up there for months and months. That is a long time to go without a can of your favorite soda or a bag of chips.
disciples
Do Russian astronauts eat the same things as American astronauts? I wonder if up on the international space station there are any fights over food, one country's astronauts wanting something that the other country's hate. Seems like a ridiculous circumstance I know, but astronauts are people too.
profess
I have a real soft spot for astronaut ice cream, that freeze dried ice cream that they sell at science museum gift shops. I doubt that the actual astronauts eat it, or haven't for years, but I like it for some reason. Most of my friends think it is gross and one of those things you can only like as a kid, kind of like cotton candy, but I still buy some every time I see it.
anon272725

How many days can they stay in space?

anon270291

@anon2303: There are not a lot of options for them to eat so I'm guessing they have to shut up and deal with it.

anon258831

What do they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Can you please answer this as fast as you can? It is for a project.

anon253060

That's cool. I would hate to get food in my eye.

anon244123

They ensure proper diet, and plus, being out there is like a sauna.

anon233916

Because their bones will disintegrate unless they workout and go see a doctor constantly.

anon167448

How do they keep their living quarters clean?

anon114464

They all have to be fit because being in space makes you lose muscle and calcium. It also makes you two inches taller, but the other affects could be fatal without physical training.

anon111331

You guys are getting it confused. yes, they do eat sandwiches but that is not the only food that they eat. they actually have a wide variety of foods to choose from, relax being an astronaut, you have to get good food, or else it's not worth the trip, getting sick and all.

anon84651

how could they stand and eat because they will be floating around with their food.

anon80354

what do they eat?

anon68761

Do they have any other foods they eat or do the just eat sandwiches?

anon52123

they have to be fit, otherwise if they get sick at all from a preexisting condition, it's bad for the mission.

even if they had surgery once, you wouldn't be able to be an astronaut.

anon50132

how could they stand eating the same thing?

Iwant2know

I think they have to be fit in order to endure the conditions, things like EVAs, and for health experiments.

anon4845

Why do astronauts have to be physically fit in space?

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    • Astronauts typically rely on freeze-dried foods that are rehydrated in space.
      Astronauts typically rely on freeze-dried foods that are rehydrated in space.
    • Flour torillas are preferred over bread, which tends to crumble.
      Flour torillas are preferred over bread, which tends to crumble.
    • US astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the Moon.
      US astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the Moon.
    • Astronauts will often be in space for weeks or even months.
      Astronauts will often be in space for weeks or even months.
    • Astronauts cannot bring fresh food to space.
      Astronauts cannot bring fresh food to space.