A recent Channel 4 documentary called Heston’s Dinner in Space has recorded the work that the British three-Michelin star chef Heston Blumenthal has done with the European Space Agency in order to make food more appetising and to help it raise astronaut morale in space. The aim of the project was to allow the British ESA astronaut, Major Tim Peake, have some tasty treats while on the International Space Station, while also having something to remind him of his British home and past.
Such delicacies included Thai red curry, a sausage sizzler and a smokey salmon and capers dish were carried up, along with old favourites such as beef stew, bacon sandwiches and hot tea, and some paper decorations to help the reminiscent atmosphere and make the food go down better. The food was specifically designed to maximise flavour as astronauts report that their taste buds often get dulled in orbital spaceflight as fluids build up in their nose. In order to provide the right texture and microbial defence, tins were chosen as the best containers for the food.
Special care had to be taken over food hygiene (even Blumenthal’s lauded Fat Duck restaurant in England has had trouble with that) in order to make sure that the astronauts did not get food poisoning. Blumenthal also had to consider avoiding globules of liquid and crumbs floating around the space station (a reason that sandwiches had previously been barred from orbit since the Gemini programme era).
Heston Blumenthal, who has a reputation for employing space age technology including using liquid gases to prepare some of his dishes on Earth, had to battle with both ESA and NASA bureaucracy and even a Falcon 9/Dragon launch failure in order to get his food to orbit. But it got their in the end, and Tim Peake, who even donned a mock evening suit on the ISS to eat the food, very much enjoyed most of it, with especial praise for the salmon dish which reminded him of a mountain expedition to Canada as a teenager.