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Which fruit was the first eaten on the moon?
Astronauts had previously enjoyed applesauce while orbiting the earth, but peaches were the first fruit to be eaten on the moon. During the United States’ Apollo 11 moon mission, the astronauts were able to enjoy two meals while on the moon. Along with canned peaches, the first meal included bacon squares, sugar cookie cubes, coffee and a beverage made with pineapple and grapefruit juices.
The political, technological and scientific achievement of putting a man on the Moon was a cause for celebration. In this new world now inhabited by Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, everything was a first. Neil had his first step, the first photographs were snapped and, eventually, the pair sat down for their first meal. What does one eat to celebrate something as momentous as landing on the Moon?
Bacon, apparently. This may not have been a deliberate celebratory decision (although there’s still debate about which bits of Moon landing lore were pre-planned and which were not). But there was bacon nonetheless, says Amy Shira Teitel for her blog Vintage Space.
[B]acon cubes were among the meals stored in the lunar module. And it worked out that meal A, the first scheduled meal to be eaten on the Moon, consisted of bacon squares, peaches, sugar cookie cubes, pineapple grapefruit drink and coffee. They ate history’s first meal on Moon slightly ahead of schedule after landing at the Sea of Tranquility.
According to Teitel, bacon has a long history in the American space program, showing up in meals as far back as the early Gemini missions. And from the beginning, it was a popular menu item. So it’s easy to imagine that Armstrong and Aldrin enjoyed the dried, salted treat in their first Moon meal.
But in recent years, Teitel says, things have changed at NASA. Though many improvements have been made to spacefarers’ food options, there is now one thing that is distinctly missing. Yep, bacon.
[B]acon squares lived on after Apollo. In the 1990s, NASA astronauts also had bacon squares as part of their meal options. A meal plan from 2002, however, had a distinct lack of bacon. Today on the ISS, the closest thing astronauts have is a freeze-dried sausage pattie they rehydrate with hot water.
Lunar Communion: The first meal on the moon
Dr. Margrit Von Braun discussed the connection between science, space exploration and religion. “He was trying in his own way to bring science and religion together, with that bridge of love.”
As an accomplished environmental engineer, she emphasized that in order to preserve both the practices of religion and science– we have to first save our planet.
Dr. Margrit Von Braun says “We can use our god- given responsibility to protect the earth, and our god-given curiosity to continue to explore the cosmos.”
Dr. Von Broun believes the future is female. And she’s doing her part to help lift up the next generation of researchers.
She says, “I think I came to realize pretty early into my job that maybe my most important job wasn’t being an engineering professor, it was being a mentor. Because, I was, not surprisingly, the only woman on the faculty for a long time. And so the women engineering students were drawn to me… at first I thought ‘My, this is taking up a lot of time.’ Then I realized this is probably the most important thing I’m doing here.”
First Food in Space: Toothpaste Tubes of Applesauce and Beef
Astronaut food has drastically improved over the decades, but the monotony of the menu remains a challenge for long-term spaceflight.
First Space Food
In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth. He also was the first person to eat in space.
Gagarin’s crumb-free meal featured two portions of pureed meat, stored neatly in toothpaste-tube-like containers. To eat it, he simply squeezed the food directly into his mouth. And for dessert? Mission planners were kind enough to include a tube of chocolate sauce.
The following year, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. (Astronaut Alan Shepard flew to space first, but his 15-minute suborbital flight was so short he didn’t eat.)
Glenn’s meal selection wasn’t any better than Gagarin’s, but at least NASA packed him a straw. Glenn was served up a tube of applesauce, plus some sugar tablets that he dissolved in water. He was also issued pureed beef and vegetables in a tube, which now belongs to the National Air and Space Museum.
At the time, scientists had bigger concerns than pleasing astronaut taste buds. No one knew how the body would react to eating in a zero-gravity environment. Would Glenn be able to swallow and digest food? Fortunately, his body handled the space meal just fine. But that wasn’t the end of eating foods that looked more like toothpaste. Throughout the Mercury program — NASA’s early missions exploring orbital spaceflight — astronauts had to get used to sucking food from tubes. Other menu options included freeze-dried powders and bite-sized cubes.
It wasn’t until NASA advanced to the Gemini program and was prepping for the moon that the space agency finally heeded astronauts’ complaints. Gemini astronauts got to eat solid-ish food. The food-paste tubes were gone. The cubes were covered in gelatin to stop crumbs. And NASA stepped up its freeze-dried foods by putting them in plastic containers that made it easier for astronauts to turn them into something palatable, like a shrimp cocktail or chicken and veggies.
Contraband Corned Beef
But that still wasn’t enough for some astronauts. Complaining about the grub in orbit is a timeless — and understandable — tradition among astronauts.
In the Gemini missions, astronaut Gus Grissom was so vocal about his disdain for NASA’s meal choices that, in 1965, pilot John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich onboard Gemini 3 to share with Grissom. It was NASA’s first two-person mission, and the first meal shared in orbit. They had to stash the sandwich away after the first few bites, though, as crumbs of rye bread were floating through the cabin.
Not everyone appreciated the joke. Some members of Congress were so upset that they investigated whether the contraband cuisine endangered the mission.
By the time the Apollo missions kicked off, things had improved significantly. Astronauts could thank engineers for two major new developments: hot water and the “spoon bowl.” Hot water helped astronauts more easily reconstitute freeze-dried foods. The spoon bowl consisted of a plastic bag that could be unzipped so its contents could be eaten with a spoon, creating a more earthly eating experience.
But why freeze-dry astronaut food? Simple: Removing enough water prevents bacteria from being able to grow. This is still a popular way of serving food to astronauts today, though there’s now a much wider selection of foods from which to choose, which is largely due to more available real estate.
Food on the ISS
The International Space Station has enough room to store the 200 different items on the modern menu, most of which need to be rehydrated. (NASA now even lets astronauts pack a warm sandwich with them at launch and eat it in orbit.) And while Mercury astronauts might envy the selection, Glenn’s first flight only lasted one orbit. Astronauts now stay in space for many months at a time, with the same selection of food offered to them week after week.
Even the seasonings are alien. Shaking salt and pepper in orbit could easily create an airborne hazard, so they have to be dispensed in liquid form.
“Everything is in a packet — steak, pasta, coffee. We either drink it through a straw or cut it open and eat it with a spoon,” Koch said in a recent NASA interview. “Some of us get creative, inventing strange food combinations — a cracker with rehydrated cocktail shrimp and sauce. We also develop techniques to spice things up; I use a syringe to inject coconut oil into my coffee drink bag.”
Catering to astronauts’ taste buds may seem like a light-hearted affair, but the psychological effects could be serious on a mission to Mars, which could last well over a year. Will the menu monotony take a toll? For Koch, the impact of life without crunchy food was enough to fixate on after 328 days.
“I haven’t had chips in about 10 and a half months,” she told the AP, adding “I have had a fresh apple.” On a Mars mission, astronauts likely couldn’t even expect that kind of fresh produce.