Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) enjoy regular meals just like the rest of us, though the microgravity conditions mean that dinnertime in space is a little different to how it is on terra firma.
Current ISS astronaut Megan McArthur this week shared a video showing a recent dining session with her fellow space travelers, with the footage revealing a lively atmosphere as everyone comes together to eat and share stories.
“Looking forward to another Saturday in with good friends, good laughs, and good space food!” McArthur tweeted alongside the video.
— Megan McArthur (@Astro_Megan) October 1, 2021
While astronauts will often eat dinner by themselves or in small groups during the week, on Saturday nights they make a special effort to squeeze around the same table to enjoy their meal together.
As you can see in the video, the lack of gravity means that things can get a bit chaotic at times, with food floating off in all directions before it’s caught and returned to the table — or eaten — by one of the astronauts.
“We love our Saturday dinner parties on the space station,” McArthur says in the video.
Much of the food comes in heat-stabilized pouches or vacuum packs that requires hot or cold water to be added, but occasional treats are also delivered via spacecraft supply missions. For this dinner, such treats included cheese and hummus, likely delivered on a recent SpaceX supply mission flown by one of its Cargo Dragon spacecraft.
“Preparation varies with the food type,” NASA notes on its website. “Some foods can be eaten in their natural forms, such as brownies and fruit. Other foods require adding water, such as macaroni and cheese or spaghetti. Of course, an oven is provided in the space station to heat foods to the proper temperature. There are no refrigerators in space, so space food must be stored and prepared properly to avoid spoilage, especially on longer missions.”
Condiments like salt and pepper are also provided. But they only come in liquid form, as sprinkling them in their usual state would cause the particles to float away in the microgravity conditions, possibly clogging air vents, contaminating equipment, or getting in astronauts’ eyes.
The space station diet is designed by nutritionists who have to ensure the astronauts receive a balanced supply of vitamins and minerals during stays on the ISS that usually last around six months.
In recent years astronauts have also been experimenting with cultivating vegetables on the ISS in an effort to become more self-sufficient instead of relying on supplies from Earth. This is an important goal if astronauts are ever to embark on long-duration missions to places like Mars, and possibly beyond.
For more insight into how astronauts live and work on the space station, take a look at these videos created by inhabitants of the orbiting outpost over the years.