Veg-01: A Playlist
Food in space has come a long way since Yuri Gagarin squeezed out his first meal of puréed meat and chocolate sauce from tubes. In the 60s and 70s, tubes were replaced by gelatin-coated cubes, with flavours ranging from cheese sandwich to date fruit cake which, in turn, were replaced by rehydratable, freeze dried meals in pouches (shrimp cocktail was a favourite). A corned beef sandwich was famously smuggled aboard during Project Gemini, quickly becoming dry and crumbly due to high oxygen levels.
These days, residents of the International Space Station have a decent variety of main dishes to choose from, not to mention fresh fruit and vegetables and national specialities like Kung Pao chicken, Borscht soup, ramen noodles, even bacteria and odor free kimchi suitable for space travel. Thanks to ISSpresso, an Italian astronaut sipped freshly brewed coffee for the first time in 2015. Meanwhile down on Earth, researchers gathering at HI-SEAS, a Mars-stimulated lava field in Hawaii, practiced cooking crew meals from space-appropriate pantry ingredients, inspired by a public recipe contest; a “spam-n-egg baowich” and “Dark Matter Cake” were among the winning entries. NASA is now backing experiments to develop a 3D food printer which could print starches, proteins, and fats in layers to form a complete dish, say, pizza.
The fascination for growing and sustaining fresh food in space isn’t limited to the US, Russian astronauts have studied extensively on quail eggs since the late 70s, and on baby quails after the eggs finally start hatching in the 90s. In 2007, NASA sent 10 million cinnamon basil seeds to the ISS; 16 were planted and kept under observation. In 2012, astronaut Don Pettit, blogged “Diary of a Space Zucchini” aboard the ISS. The first entry reads:
I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me. I am not one of the beautiful; I am not one that by any other name instills flutters in the human heart. I am the kind that makes little boys gag at the dinner table thus being sent to bed without their dessert. I am utilitarian, hearty vegetative matter that can thrive under harsh conditions. I am zucchini – and I am in space.
The Russian crews on ISS, with looser safety regulations than those on US astronauts, successfully cultivated and consumed Mizuna, peas and dwarf wheat in LADA, a greenhouse named after the Russian goddess of spring back in 2014. And after lengthy testing on previous yields that were frozen and sent back to earth, NASA gave the green light to Veg-01, the first vegetable harvest meant for consumption on the US side of ISS in the summer of 2015. After being grown under LED lights for 33 days, the ruffled bright red leaves of Outredgeous lettuce were clipped by Expedition 44 crew members Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui. The astronauts thought the lettuce, dressed in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, was “awesome”. A video of the tasting was shared on Kelly’s Instagram account, @StationCDRKelly, under which he commented:
It was one small bite for man, one giant leap for #NASAVEGGIE and our #JourneytoMars. #YearInSpace
- Here is a playlist inspired by earthly pleasures afloat in space, and their patrons watching the world go by. Click here to listen.
- Put On Your Sunday Clothes, Barbra Streisand, Michael Crawford
- Gnocienne, Mekanik Kantatik
- International Farmer, Pubajim
- Berzerk Dub, Disrupt
- Guaracha U.F.O (Versión Rebajada), Meridian Brothers
- Soon Come (feat. Liam Bailey), SHY FX
- How Does It Make You Feel, Air
- La Vie En Rose, Louis Armstrong
- Biological Speculation, Funkadelic
- Watching the World, Surahn
- Mother Nature, Father Time, Brook Benton
- Heaven, The Rolling Stones
- Space Oddity, The Langley School Music Project
- An Ending, A Beginning, Dustin O'Halloran