Get Regular Updates!
Search
|An astronomical myth—astronaut ice cream

Space

image|

Ruth Hartnup  CC BY 2.0

An astronomical myth—astronaut ice cream

An astronomical myth—astronaut ice cream

Astronaut ice cream’s failed mission and the snacks you can get up in space.

An astronomical myth—astronaut ice cream

Have you ever had astronaut ice cream? The crunchy, space-themed treat is often sold with an astronaut on the packet. It lasts for years and won’t melt at room temperature. But despite its name and history, the one place you will never find astronaut ice cream is on a space station.

To understand why astronaut ice cream exists, you first need to know a little about what space food was like for early astronauts.

Early space food

The first few space flights were a nerve-wracking experience. Nobody really knew what zero gravity would be like for humans.

NASA wasn’t sure if food digestion was possible without the aid of gravity or what food would be safe for astronauts to eat in space. Loose food wouldn’t just fall to the floor like it does on Earth. Crumbs might float into the ship’s sensitive electronics, threatening the lives of everyone on board.

US astronaut John Glenn became the first person to eat in space when he snacked on a tube of applesauce on the Friendship 7 flight in 1962.

But applesauce wasn’t very filling, and without decent food, astronauts lost weight on spaceflights. NASA wanted to solve this problem by getting real food into space.

This meant taking traditional meals and finding a way to dehydrate, freeze-dry or heat-treat them to allow for storage. On the earliest missions, refrigerators were too power-intensive to run in space, so the food had to be storable at room temperature.

Video|Tested
Inside NASA’s Space Food Systems Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center in Houston seeing the history of space food

So NASA contracted the Whirlpool Corporation to figure out a way to store ice cream at room temperature.

When ice cream melts, the air trapped inside escapes. Whirlpool engineers invented a way to remove the water from ice cream without melting it. First, the ice cream is cooled to below -15°C, then a vacuum pump evaporates the ice using pressure while still keeping the ice cream cold. This stops the ice melting before it evaporates.

Earthbound, Neapolitan town

Despite being made for space, astronaut ice cream never quite made it off the planet. For a long time, people thought it had, because the NASA spaceflight media release reported it included on Apollo 7. It was this release that ensured the specially freeze-dried ice cream would forever be called astronaut ice cream.

But the last surviving member of the Apollo 7 crew, Walter Cunningham, denied there was astronaut ice cream aboard the flight.

Apollo 7 lifting off on 11 October 1968, without ice cream on board
. Credit: NASA
View Larger
Image |

NASA

Apollo 7 lifting off on 11 October 1968, without ice cream on board
Walter Cunningham, astronaut aboard Apollo 7 confirmed the mission was a success, despite not having ice cream on board
. Credit: NASA
View Larger
Image |

NASA

Walter Cunningham, astronaut aboard Apollo 7 confirmed the mission was a success, despite not having ice cream on board

There’s also no mention of the ice cream in the ship’s transcripts. In fact, due to the ice cream’s crumbly nature, it would have been incredibly dangerous aboard a spaceship.

And if it wasn’t aboard Apollo 7, astronaut ice cream has never been to space. No other flight has taken it. So astronaut ice cream isn’t really for astronauts.

As for what the astronauts do eat? Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were able to snack on some bacon cubes and fruit drink while on the Moon, and the menu has expanded since then. The International Space Station has meals ranging from shrimp cocktails to tortillas and even the occasional pizza night.

Video|NASA Johnson
Making pizza on board the International Space Station
Vital science VIDEO

Republish

Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.

Guidelines

You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.

Images

Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.

Video

All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.

Contact

For more information about using our content, email us: particle@scitech.org.au

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?