Volume: 04, Issue: 08 12/14/2005 
The Challenges of Holiday Dining in Orbit
Commander Bill McArthur, left, and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev share a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Image credit: NASA TV
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Expedition 8 Flight Engineer (FE) Alexander Kaleri, in preparation for a telecommunication, poses in front of a wall hanging with a Christmas Tree. Image courtesy NASA.
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Expedition 9 Commander Gennady Padalka appears to juggle some fruit that arrived on an unpiloted Progress spacecraft several months into his mission. Image courtesy NASA TV.
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AURA Satellite Zooms In on Ozone Hole
Cassini Spots Activity on Saturn Moon
Mars Exploration Rovers Continue to Amaze
Explore Science, Technology, & Space Conferences

Challenges of Holiday Dining in Orbit

For crews living aboard the International Space Station, holiday dining in space brings special challenges. Fresh produce, a staple taken for granted here on Earth even during the holidays, is unavailable to the crewmembers most of the time. Instead, the crews rely on rehydratable, thermostabilized, and irradiated foods to ensure a balanced and varied diet.

Through these special preservation techniques, Expedition 12 crewmates Bill McArthur and Valery Tokarev were able to enjoy traditional holiday fare such as smoked turkey, green beans, and cranberry-apple dessert on Thanksgiving Day. McArthur and Tokarev can look forward to some special dining treats this Christmas when the ISS Progress 20 cargo craft arrives on Dec. 23.

The first American astronaut to eat in space dined on applesauce squeezed from a no-frills, aluminum toothpaste-like tube. Since then, food technology has cooked up better ways to prepare, package and preserve space fare in a tastier, more appetizing fashion.

Starting up to a year in advance, the life of space food takes it from the development lab in Houston, to Russia, and then launched more than 200 miles into space for an astronaut meal weeks or even months later.

Food technologies developed to meet the challenges in space have dished up neat eats on Earth. From potato chip packages and hot air ovens to shelf-life food and nutritional infant formula, space food has enhanced everyday food. Snacks and astronaut desserts like plum-cherry cobbler, honey cake, berry medley, and chocolate breakfast drink satisfy astronauts' sweet tooth in space.

Today, humans are living in space aboard the International Space Station for as long as six months at a time. As America journeys back to the Moon and on to Mars, advances for food to withstand years in space will serve up more improvements in space and on Earth.

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