“I will punch you in the goddamn face if you besmirch Astronaut Ice Cream.”
While Russia may have been the first country to stick their dirty, probably frostbitten, grubby little fingers into the great pool of outer space, but America was the country that blindly cannonballed in there as we made it our bitch. Take that, comrades, how’s never going to the moon feel? Pretty shitty, huh?
While we might only now be finally catching up to the American dream of drinking a beer in space, we realized pretty early on in the game that it was important for us to feed our astronauts. So, of course, Americans have spent decades researching and determining what a select few can eat when they are floating in a tin can far above the world. Yes, this mental energy could have been spent on trivial things like “curing cancer” or “inventing a mayonnaise that won’t make bread soggy if it’s stored overnight” but, nope, we had to feed 500 people over a 50 year period. Damn straight we did! Astronauts get swag, you should know this by now. That’s why we’re here to present…
The American History of Space Food
The Russians were the first to send food up into space, so of course it was terrible and you probably had to wait in a long ass line in the cold to get it. Their “space food” came in toothpaste tubes, and offered two servings of meat puree and one of chocolate sauce. If that sounds pretty disgusting to you, well, that’s because it is. There’s a reason why they never mention what kind of “meat” they pureed into there (hint, it probably was Chechnyan dissidents). But before America could even focus on what kinds of food to eat in space, they had to determine that they actually could eat in space—when the astronauts were up in the first few orbital space launches, they weren’t even sure if they’d be able to swallow while in space, so astronauts were told to eat “radioactive food” from toothpaste tubes.
Because honestly, what better way to test if it’s possible to swallow up in space than to force some radioactive sludge down the throat of a physically-fit scientist?
By the first early Mercury missions, the food had evolved in the same sense that at some point that skunks once evolved to make themselves smell awful. Astronauts had to force themselves to eat tubed goop, bite-sized cubes, and freeze-dried powders, which apart from tasting awful, were hard to rehydrate and had crumbs that could foul up instruments.
Pictured above: Either a model train set, or food that was actually put inside American astronauts.
By the time the Gemini mission rolled around, we at least had gotten the ball rolling on making foods that wouldn’t make people vomit or leave enough crumbs to try to break a spaceship. Instead of pastes and cubes that you had to rehydrate using the saliva of your mouth, we were sending freeze-dried foods that were to be rehydrated with a water gun (Super soakers, we can only hope), and included such flavors as Turkey bites, cream of chicken soup, and shrimp cocktails.
By the time the moon mission came around, they had developed we packs known as “spoon-bowls” which looked less like spoons or bowls as they looked like some sort of alien inside a breathing apparatus.
We’re pretty sure this is from that scene in Men in Black when they open up the head of that dead guy to show the little alien inside.
These “wet packs” took advantage of the fact that the Apollo missions could use hot water on their missions. The mushiness of the food allowed you to open the zipper at the top after hydrating the meal and eat it with a spoon, even in weightless conditions. These foods were typically American, with Apollo 11 eating cheddar cheese spreads and hot dogs. Because if you’ve never wanted to eat a hot dog in space, your sense of joy must have died out years ago.
When NASA launched the Skylab Space Station, which had a fully galley for cooking and preparing meals, and a goddamn refrigerator. By this point, while spoon-bowls were still being used, much of the food they would prepare was refrigerated and canned—dehydrated foods were limited to conserve water. While this offered more diverse food options (and motherfucking SPACE ICE CREAM) it also had the accidental benefit of looking like some sort of sex apparatus that would be featured on an episode of the Howard Stern Show.
Yes, we know it’s juice, that doesn’t mean we can’t point out that it looks like something completely different.
Finally, the 1980’s saw a revolution in astronaut food, where fruits and vegetables can be stored at room temperatures, and astronauts could design their own seven day menus choosing from 74 different foods and 20 drinks. The only place that they are lagging behind is alcohol, since “you’re not supposed to drink while on a mission to space” which we think is total bullshit. But still, now we can eat delicious(ish) food, in space—even Emeril Lagasse was able to send some meals into space, because it was 2006 and he was much more popular back then.
Since the moon race was so kind as to grant us astronaut ice cream, we can only dream of what delicious and American culinary novelties will come from our eventual trip to meet our alien cousins on the Red Plant. Either way, it should be fun times.