Space Food (ISS): What are they eating in space now?

The International Space Station has been continuously inhabited since 2000. Typically, three to six astronauts and cosmonauts stay for a period of six months in an area no larger than a six-bedroom house. Around six months before launch, astronauts spend a number of days tasting and rating a menu of 200 food items at the Johnson Space Center Food Lab. According to Jennifer Levasseur, curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, each astronaut has a tray assigned to them packed with their food so they can decide what they want to eat for each day from their stash. They can even trade with other astronauts, she said.

They can also request snacks, entrees or even favorite condiments off the standard menu for their personal "bonus container" as long as they comply with microbiological and shelf-life requirements. "They can also ask for special items like spreads (one of them is a big fan of Fluff)," Levasseur said. The most commonly requested items is tortillas, she reports, perhaps because NASA only allocates one per day. Nowadays, on the ISS, the US provides about half of the food, and other countries, primarily Russia, provide the rest. Around 50% comes in thermostabilized form, but also in freeze-dried, irradiated and natural form. Astronauts don't have to bring their entire six-month food supply with them on arrival to the ISS as resupply vehicles visit every few months. The only refrigerator on board the ISS is used to store biological experiments so all food has to be shelf stable for a minimum of 18 months, although a small chiller has been brought up so astronauts are able to drink chilled beverages. Food can taste different in space. The lack of gravity causes a phenomenon known as fluid shift, leaving the head feeling congested, which in turn affects the sense of smell and taste. Aromas also dissipate differently. They don't rise and disperse as they would here on Earth, further inhibited by packets containing the food means aromas don't reach the nose as readily. For this reason, NASA says that astronauts tend to have a preference for spiced food, there are plenty of condiments on the ISS, all come in liquid form. Pepper is suspended in oil and salt is dissolved in water both added to food using dropper bottles.

(Source: CNN News)