Image courtesy: ISS (International Space Station) , Pixabay
Writer: Jatin Kumar, Biotechnologist, Graphic Designer ( Biotechticle Research Group), Patna(Bihar), India
A lot of things have changed since the first manned flight of Yuri Gagarin in Vostok spacecraft, to the recent commercial test flight of Bob Behnken & Doug Hurley in SpaceX-NASA crew dragon, Demo-2.
Besides the technological advancements in machinery, space food and beverages are also getting modified and engineered so far, to sustain in zero gravity for the longer time duration without getting spoiled. Earlier in the 1960s, astronauts called their meals as “meal in a pill” because most of their food and supplements were enclosed in a pill, but now things have changed, they eat the same food as we do, that’s because of the continuous research in the food processing (making it light-weight, compact, tasty, nutritious, high calorific, easily digestible, thermostabilized, moisture free and properly sanitized with 200ppm chlorine rinse and air-dried) and innovation in packaging, that makes it suitable, easily accessible to the astronauts, and leaving very little waste behind.
But the thing which changed drastically is the introduction of private players like SpaceX and Blue Origin, in the space sector which is shifting it’s focus from space research & exploration to the “Space Tourism”, “Starship” mission (Earth to Earth travel using rocket, through space) and finally colonising other planets like Mars or satellites like Moon, which is going to revolutionize the space sector.
Therefore it becomes important to ensure the proper and continuous food supply to the astronauts, space tourists, and humans inhabiting Mars (in future until they grow their own food).
There is an interesting case of commercializing space foods, In 2003, Chinese astronauts in their first manned mission brought some processed traditional food along with Chinese herbal tea to Space, which is then commercialized for sale to common people.
Another interesting case is of South Korea, where its first astronaut Yi So-Yeon, In 2008, brought a special version of Korea’s national dish “Kimchi” to space, which took several years to develop, by three Research Institutes and over one million dollars of investment to create a fermented cabbage dish, suitable for zero gravity.
Thus Space food industry is going to be a multi-billion dollar industry in the near future, by providing a huge variety of food and beverages as per the demand of tourists and travellers across the globe.
In the context of India, ISRO is also planning for it’s first manned mission “GAGANYAAN” in 2021 and as Indian Government is opening up its space sector for private players, so it becomes crucial for them to invest in the “Space food” sector to tap the advantage of space tourism in near future, because installing and launching a rocket from scratch for the first time is quite expensive and time consuming for any newcomers.