Astronauts Can Now Have Pizza In Space
We’re Now Just Waiting For Some Taco Bell
It was Pizza Thursday on the International Space Station August 12th, thanks to a cargo delivery from weapons development firm and NASA shipper, Northrop Grumman. Their Cygnus spacecraft, named the "S.S. Ellison Onizuka” (after the first Asian American in space who tragically died in the 1986 Challenger disaster), launched Tuesday August 10th with the Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia eastern seaboard. Aboard the solemnly named capsule were fresh apples, tomatoes, kiwi, and a tasty pizza kit and cheese bounty for a party of seven station astronauts.
NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) Space Food Systems Laboratory have a long history of painstakingly researching and testing meals for the most out of this world of culinary customers. Each mission receives the 5-star treatment of freeze-dried food with each expedition crew given multiple sampling options before their menu is debuted at a Russian training session. After a few meal tweaks, the menu is set for orbit.
Key factors in these off-planet recipes are nutrition, flavor, shelf life, ease of cooking and consumption and… avoiding pesky crumbs and other tasty issues for the sensitive ISS equipment. Key factors also acknowledged by a certain earthbound industry. Fast food.
Northrop Grumman’s pizza kit of course isn’t the first pizza or pizza kit sent to space. In 2001, Pizza Hut partnered with the Russian Space Agency to “deliver” a pizza to ISS by way of a Progress resupply vehicle. Russia may not have been the first to the moon but they were first in space pizza parties. In the twenty years since, no other commercial fast-food company, from Taco Bell to Burger King, has made it to space, though American astronauts can enjoy versions of American fast food like NASA-developed burgers and teriyaki chicken. But that doesn’t count. No one craving some Taco Bell nutrition is happy with a regular tortilla at “home” and Taco Bell is on the short list of companies who COULD potentially send the party to space.
In 1985 Mexican scientist Rodolfo Neri Vela brought tortillas on a space mission and NASA quickly recognized their potential in their handiness and lack of crumbs. To this day, tortillas are a staple above the planet on ISS. But the catering company for the International Space Station is against the idea, citing American fast food is not customary for the other members of the expedition. They’re more accustomed to their own country’s fare - Like cottage cheese. And borscht.
Fair enough. At least the crew on ISS have kiwis and liquid salt and pepper to enjoy. Maybe sometime later down the road we can revisit astronauts living mas, but until that time, hey, we have pizza.