Cooking Aboard the International Space Station

The International Space Station's "kitchen"

We always thought that astronaut food was dehydrated ice cream and things like boil-in-bag beef stroganoff, but NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus, during her four month stay aboard the International Space Station, has taken what's been called "orbital cooking" to a whole new level.

NASA posted parts of her journal that detail her culinary adventures (see part one and part two). Food aboard the ISS has gotten profoundly better ever since the first refrigerator was installed back in November. You'd think the ISS would be all sleek and high-tech, but the conditions she's cooking in look sort of abysmal, like a messy garage.

A flying burrito

Praise for the Tortilla

Spending her free time on Sunday cooking for her crewmates, and to break away from the monotony of pre-made meals, her basic strategy was mixing and matching from the Russian and American food supplies, and a hefty use of the versatile tortilla, which she praises highly:

I should first mention the overall utility of the tortilla as a basic food group here in space. You can do so much with a tortilla; it becomes the vehicle with which to eat almost anything. I cannot think of anything that cannot be put on a tortilla, or has not been put on a tortilla. Consequently, one of the main goals of any crew is to make sure that enough tortillas get on board (the only other high demand object is caffeine). Some show up on the standard menu, but you can pad that by adding them to both your preference and bonus containers. Also when a Shuttle shows up you are in tortilla heaven because they show up with tons of them and graciously donate all of the extras to the ISS crews. You really want to be swimming in tortillas your whole increment.

Photograph from NASA: 2Explore on Flickr

Of Course, Duct Tape

NASA posted a Powerpoint-style presentation with details on what she made for Christmas, New Year's, and the Super Bowl. She's had to be super-resourceful, using duct tape to hold everything down and plastic bags to serve as ersatz mixing bowls. And since there are no burners in outer space, there's a somewhat complicated process behind cooking raw ingredients:

"To prepare garlic, and I have added onions to the mix, you keep some of the foil packets that the Russian dehydrated food comes in, put the garlic and chopped onion (large pieces) in the foil, squirt in some olive oil, fold the foil over to fit into the food warmer and turn it on. The warmer only works for 30 minutes or so, so every half hour you have to come in and turn it on again. After about four or five cycles, you have cooked garlic and onions."

Also see Discovery's slideshow, titled "Celebrity Space Chef Sandra Magnus."

Photograph by astronomicalfamily on Flickr

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