Gourmet's online archives! In 2009 Christy Harrison wrote a story called "Space Farming Comes Down To Earth", which included a fascinating slideshow on the evolution of space food through the years. (My favorite caption is on the 5th photo: "According to NASA’s archive, 'Cernan appears to be eating chocolate pudding.'") Definitely check out the article, as well as the NASA fact sheet "Food For Space Flight" ("Flour tortillas are a favorite bread item of the Shuttle astronauts") but in the meantime here are a few of my favorite insights:
- Anecdotal evidence aboard shuttles suggests that "a diet of healthy, tasty foods and the presence of plants both help to decrease the stress of long missions"- a good thing for all of us to remember, especially in noisy/crowded/stressful cities.
- NASA scientists have created hydroponic systems that are not only soil-free, of course, but "could pull double duty as water purifiers: Research has shown that plants in NFT hydroponic cultures can process soap-containing water with minimal effects on plant growth. 'You can take waste water and regenerate that into potable drinking water, as opposed to doing it with chemical means.'" You could water your garden with your showering/dish-washing water, and end up with vegetables and drinking water!
- One of the NASA researchers and a colleague at Purdue University are working "to harness 'waste heat' from industrial sites to warm the soil in cold climates, making it possible to grow crops year-round." Tomatoes, in January, in Chicago. Come on, science! You can do it!