“…being an astronaut is just taking a camping trip in outer space.”
– Dr. Marshburn, NASA Astronaut
I was on location in Florida to see SpaceX’s Dragon Freedom (!) leave Earth and enter the stratosphere. Since then, I’ve been doing a happy dance knowing our recipes are aboard the International Space Station awaiting ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, on her second space mission. For the next 5-ish months, she will be snacking on our curated meals when she wants a taste of home.
Like on Earth, nutrition plays a key role in maintaining the health and optimal performance of astronauts on a space mission, so much that NASA maintains a dedicated division, the Space Food Systems Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center, to support the production and development of food for all NASA programs.
Physically speaking, the first hours and days in microgravity on the ISS are a challenging acclimation period for astronauts. Dizziness and nausea set in due to motion sickness; the faces get puffy due to fluids shifting towards the head; muscle loss and bone demineralization must be actively counteracted.
Then, let’s talk about mental impact. You are away from home, from anything comfortable and familiar. And you are eating out of a limited, not-so-varied selection of mostly dried foods for days, weeks, or months on end. Meal fatigue starts to kick in, where just the thought of eating the same tasteless, pre-packed food over and over starts to make you feel ill.
Does it ring a bell? Indeed although the physiological causes are different, the acclimatization process to higher altitudes often comes with headaches, edema, nausea, and appetite issues. For some, this is enough reason to abort a mission. For those who do stick it out, at some point fatigue and exhaustion set in.
So now we’ve got a tired, achy, sweaty body that’s had some significant declines in glucose, minerals, calories, and motivation.
Much like space food, adventure food is not only required to be nutritious, it must also be appetizing, I would argue that the food we take along can become the key factor that determines if we enjoy our trek and if we succeed in the end.
That is why, together with our Chef, Stefano, I set out to create a line of meals that is both tasty and nutritious, to provide the best support to adventurers in extreme environments.
It’s not by chance that an astronaut is one of our first test pilots for our meals. Nor that we partner with a group of professional explorers specialized in complex expeditions to the most remote corners of the planet, to crash-test our prototypes in the field. Before we go to market we wanted to test our hypothesis that quality nutrition can sustain individuals who are under high psychological stress and satisfy their needs.
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