ISS Update: Packing and Preparing Space Food (Part 1)

Uploaded by ReelNASA on 21.11.2012

>> Hi welcome to NASA's kitchen.
We are here today inside the NASA space food laboratory here
at NASA Johnson Space Center while everyone here is getting
ready for this Thanksgiving holiday complete
with the perfect Turkey and all the trimmings.
We are here today talking
to Vickie Kloeris our NASA food scientist who is going
to talk a little about how the crew aboard the International
Space Station we have three who are living
in space now including NASA astronaut Kevin Ford
who are going to be celebrating their Thanksgiving,
there a board the International Space Station flying
about 230 miles above earth.
Vickie thank you for being here to come talk to us
about how they're going to celebrate their Thanksgiving
and the food system there aboard the space station.
>> Well you're welcome and I'd like to start
by wishing everybody a happy Thanksgiving.
We have several options in our food system
for the crew members to choose from.
So they can kind of select what they want to have
for their Thanksgiving meal.
But we do have some of the traditional items available
so we have smoke turkey, we also have a dressing a cornbread
dressing that is rehydratable they can add hot water to that.
We have green beans and mushrooms,
we have broccoli al gratin, we have mashed potatoes,
we have bread products, and for desert we have cobbler.
So we have a cherry blueberry cobbler, apricot cobbler
that they can choose from.
So we have many of the traditional we also have yams.
We have many of the traditional items that we think
of as being a traditional Thanksgiving.
So they can choose from all of that to make
up their Thanksgiving meal or their Christmas meal coming
up next mouth as well.
>> Right. So a number of items for the crew to actually choose
from and from what I understand Suni just before she left had
left some fluffy marshmallows or marshmallow fluff for Kevin
so he can add to his so perhaps he'll be whipping
up some candy yams --
>> Yes.
>> -- this Thanksgiving?
>> Uh-huh.
>> So first before we even get into more talking
about the space food I would like to talk to you more
about your role as a NASA food scientist.
In fact we had polled Twitter and asked them some questions
and had them send us some questions and one
of those questions here are from Joshua Stern, what does it take
to become a NASA food scientist?
>> Well food science is, you know,
food science is typically work in the industry
and do product development
and quality assurance for food companies.
I started here with one of the contractors who was working
on the Shuttle food system actually.
I started quite a few years ago, 1985 and so I worked here
for several years
for a contractor before becoming a civil servant
and I actually started as civil servant manger
of the shuttle food system.
>> Okay.
>> And eventually transitioned
over to managing the Space Station food system.
>> Okay.
>> So we actually have several food scientists here.
On the NASA side we currently have three food scientists.
Myself, and then we have one food scientist who's working
on what we call our Advance Food Technology Program
so that's our research arm if you will
of our future food systems.
And then we have a new food scientist who came
on board recently and she's working the O'Ryan
and the Exploration Class food systems the operational systems
of the future because myself
and the AFT food scientist Michele Perchonok we're not
ready to retire yet but we're getting closer
and so Grace is going to be our food scientist of the future
after Michele and I are gone.
>> Okay. Great.
So I want to talk to you a little about --
talk to me about the ISS food system, what exactly is that?
What does it entail?
>> Okay. Well we have --
to start with people have to understand
that we have an all shelf stable food system meaning
that we have no dedicated freezers or refrigerators
for food so that requires all of our food processing to last --
our food has to last a long time at room temperature.
It's called -- that's what they call shelf stable so it has
to be stale on the shelf for a very long time.
The only refrigeration we have
on orbit they do have a small chiller
where they can actually chill a beverage.
So the water that we have
on station they either have hot water ambient water room
temperature water so they when they prepare a beverage
if they want it to be chilled they're going to have to put it
in this chiller and let it chill for a while.
It's small it's about the volume internal volume
of a typical home microwave so not very large
but it does allow them to have a chilled beverage
after they exercise and for about the first 10 years
on space station they didn't even have that option.
The chiller was added when we went to crew of six
on space station and we added a second food preparation area
so the chiller has only been there a relatively short while
compared to the life of the International Space Station.
>> Sure.
>> But they really appreciate having a chilled beverage
when they have to exercise a lot every day and they get hot
and sweaty and so the they like the idea
of having a chiller now.
>> Sure. And I understand, you know, food while it's important
to our bodies to sustain our lives
but it's also there's a psychological aspect to it.
>> Yes.
>> And can you talk to me a little bit about that.
>> Yeah when I first came to work here
and all we were flying was short shuttle flights food really was
low on the totem pole as far as priority because, you know,
most crew members that flew on shuttle felt like,
well it's a camping trip no big deal I can find something
to eat.
So very few of them were, you know, very concerned
with what was on the menu or available to them to eat.
But as we went into the Phase one program
and our crew members went and began to stay on mere
for extended period of time, they began to realize
that food the longer you're there the more important
it becomes.
Because it's one of the few creature comforts
that you do have on orbit and so those first crew members
who transitioned to long duration space flight they
quickly spread the word among the rest of the astronaut
that food becomes more and more important the longer you're
saying on orbit and so for our International Space Station crew
members who are now staying typically about six months
at a time on orbit, the psychological aspect
of the food is extremely important.
And so they pay a lot of attention our basic menu
on space station is a standard menu and it includes all
of the foods and beverages that we have and we have
about 200 foods and beverages on the U.S. side
so it's a pretty big selection.
But we do allow our crew members to augment that standard menu
with nine what we call bonus containers and those are
of their own choice they can choose more they can choose
their favorites from our food system
or they can also choose commercial off the shelf
products that meet our shelf life requirements
and our microbiological requirements
and so the crew members focus a great deal of time on what
to put in those bonus containers because that is their --
>> It's kind of their snack pack in the pantry.
>> Yeah, yeah.
And it's a big part of the psychological aspect of the food
because that's what they get to choose and that's going
to be the little special things that they have.
Sometimes it could be dessert type items
but often it's commercial entrees that they want.
Like maybe a thermal stabilized Indian food or something,
you know, of that nature so ethnic foods are often part
of what they choose for their bonus containers.
>> Sure.
>> We have a lot of anecdotal evidence from crew members
that some foods, not all foods, but some foods taste different
to them when they get on orbit then they did on the ground.
And it works both ways we'll have crew members select
something thinking they're really going to like it
when they get on orbit and then they don't.
Or we'll have crew members come back and say I didn't like this
on the ground but boy when I got on orbit I tasted it
and I was really sorry I hadn't taken more.
And so and we really feel like that a lot of that has to do
with the change in the aroma
that they're getting from the food.
So most of the way that you and I perceive the taste
of the food a big part of that is the smell the aroma
that you get from the food.
So when you and I have a cold on the ground everything tastes
like cardboard or tastes like nothing
because you aren't getting aroma from it
because your nose is congested.
>> Because they're just eating
out of this package here it's not going to be.
>> Right. And so when they get on orbit of course
when they first go into orbit they're going to be congested
from the fluid shift that occurs but that will dissipate
over time to a certain degree.
But then they've got a lot of other things
that are interfering with their ability
to get aroma from the food.
They are eating out of a package rather than off a plate
and on orbit hot air doesn't necessarily rise it's going
to -- some of it will rise but it disperses in other directions
so it limits how much aroma you're getting from the food.
>> Okay.
>> Plus you're in a confined environment with a lot
of other competing odors some
of which aren't necessarily pleasant and so all
of that taken together does --
it's not too surprising that they feel
like their taste buds are somewhat dulled.
>> Sure.
>> Now the other possibility is
that micro gravity is somehow effecting the taste receptors
on the tongue and there have been, you know, the sweet, sour,
salty, bitter taste receptors there have been a couple
of attempts over the years on the shuttle to
and in bed rest studies to try and see if that is happening.
The one that was made on the shuttle was done
on a very short duration flight
and so the results were inconclusive
and our research team our Advanced Food Technology team
has actually proposed to do an experiment on orbit on station
with long duration crew members to see
if we can quantify specifically that there might be a change
in those taste receptors that could be contributing
to this preserved change of flavor in foods.
>> Right. This is fascinating
because we're still learning how --
>> Yes.
>> -- micro gravity treats our bodies.
>> Effects.
>> So one of the questions that we have on Twitter as well
and this is something that rumor has it
that also they prefer spicy food and I understand it probably has
to do with this aroma --
>> Right.
>> -- that's the theory, but his question this comes
from Alex Simora [phonetic]
if spicy food is most popular why not send up hot sauce
or make everything spicy.
>> Well, okay.
Let me deal with the second part first.
Is the reason we don't make everything spicy is
because we also have crew members who don't --
not all crew members really want spiciness.
So we'd rather have the condiments available
and let them add it.
Some of our foods do have spice in them.
For instance we have a free stride ship cocktail
that has horseradish sauce in it so it has a nice little kick
and a lot of our crew members really like that.
And we also have to take into account the fact that many
of our international partners who are consuming our foods
at time aren't necessarily all that interested
in having really spicy foods
because their diets are different as far as level
of spice then we might have here.
But we do have a lot
of condiments available to crew members.
One of the things that they can take is we have a standard set
of condiments that we send but one of the things
that is very poplar for crew members to take
in bonus containers is hot sauce, salsa,
those kind of things they can take those things with them
and many of them do to add to their food.
>> Add their flavor.
>> Uh-huh.
>> Great. And so another questions here
and this is relevant all to this Thanksgiving meal John Knight
wants to know what has been the most popular Thanksgiving meal
on the ISS?
>> Well I would say the most popular has been our traditional
slice Turkey that we have available with things
like mashed potatoes and the candy yams that we have and,
you know, maybe the cobblers for dessert
that typically has been the most popular.
And now all of these items are available in the standard menu
but many of our crew members when they know they're going
to be on orbit for a holiday they'll go ahead and assemble
that meal in their bonus container so that it's all
in one place and when they're ready to, you know,
they know it's in that container and they don't have
to go looking for it in the various containers.
>> Right.
>> So many of them will do that if they know they're there
for a holiday they'll go ahead and decide what they're going
to eat for that meal, set it aside in their bonus containers
so that it's there and ready to go when they go to celebrate.
>> And so real quick just briefly because we're going
to need to wrap up here talk to me about how they'll be cooking
because I know we will be having to thaw the turkey
and all this stuff and so very long and it seems like --
>> For them it's very simple.
These packages of food the thermal stabilized products
if they want them warmed they have a suitcase food warmer
that they open up and it's got a hot plate
down the center it's got cavities on both sides
where they load these pouches in, close it up, plug it in,
and in about 20, 25 minutes depending
on how hot they want it those foods are ready to go.
>> Okay.
>> For something like this rehydratable product they're
going to add water from the rehydration station
in this case they would add hot water.
It tells them how much to add, about how long they need to wait
for the product to absorb the water,
so they'll inject the water,
they'll manipulate it a little bit
with their fingers before they cut the package open
to stir the water and the food together and then they'll wait
for it to absorb the water and the water is hot enough
that typically they can just cut it open
and eat it once it's rehydrated so they don't have
to like warm it up after that because the water is hot enough.
Beverages again if they want it chilled they're going to have
to hydrate it ahead of time and give it some time in the chiller
if they want to have a chilled beverage.
So there's really not a lot, you know, it's mostly just warming
or adding water so there's not a lot of cooking going on.
>> Well I haven't done my shopping yet,
any chance I can just bag this up and take it home with me?
>> Sure.
>> Well, again, Vickie thanks so much for coming out
or letting us here inside your kitchen
and showing us all about this.
>> Sure.
>> And, again, from our table to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.
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