Space food research meets the challenge of providing food that tastes good and travels well in space. The activities in this NASA educator guide for grades K-8 emphasize hands-on and cooperative involvement of students as they explore the unique problems of keeping astronauts happy and healthy in space.

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The title page, acknowledgments and table of contents are included in this section of the Space Food and Nutrition Educator Guide.
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The lesson plans and activities in the Space Food and Nutrition Educator Guide correlate to national science and mathematics standards. The matrix charts show the standards that apply to each activity.
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Refrigeration and quick-freezing have been used to help preserve food flavor and nutrients and to prevent spoilage. While these forms of packaged food products are suitable for travel on Earth, they are not always suitable for use on spaceflights. From Project Mercury's food contained in tubes to the International Space Station's food on specially designed trays, the introduction to the Space Food and Nutrition Educator Guide discusses the evolution of meals in microgravity. The introduction also lists and defines the eight categories of space food and briefly explains the considerations made when planning meals for space missions.
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Every pound on a spacecraft raises the fuel consumption at liftoff. Eliminating as much weight as possible is important. Because the fuel cells on the space shuttle produce water as a byproduct, water is easily attainable. Therefore, taking foods that can be rehydrated with this water makes sense because dehydrated food reduces the amount of weight on liftoff. In this activity, students can have a fun experience as they rehydrate instant pudding and instant drink mix.
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Food Selection Activity

by NASA Education

Astronauts select their menus for space about five months before they fly. A special taste panel is set up for the astronauts to taste a variety of foods when they are selecting their menus. This taste panel helps facilitate the selection of a desirable menu and reduces the amount of waste from unacceptable, uneaten or partially eaten portions. Students will sample food and will fill out the Taste Panel Evaluation Form, rating the appearance, color, odor, flavor and texture. The students will rate these items using the food's numerical scores.
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Astronauts need to receive the recommended daily caloric intake so they can maintain their energy level and good health. Students will plan a nutritionally balanced five-day menu for astronauts. In space, astronauts use special trays because of the microgravity environment. These trays hold everything in place while astronauts prepare and eat their food. Students will design and build a tray to hold their meals.
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The Food Guide Pyramid has been established to help people maintain a diet that is adequate in nutritional value. Maintaining good health in space is important, and to help do this, a good diet is imperative. Balanced meals of good, nutritional food will help ensure that astronauts will be able to perform their jobs in space. Using food lists from the shuttle and ISS menus, students can classify items into major food groups on the pyramid.
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During spaceflight, fresh fruits and vegetables have a short shelf life and must be eaten within a few days. This experiment allows students to test the rate of ripening fruit and to use a chemical to inhibit the ripening process.
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Mold Growth Activity

by NASA Education

Flour tortillas have been a favorite bread item for spaceflight since 1985. The space shuttle galley does not have refrigeration for food storage; hence, all foods are stowed in locker trays at room temperature. Spoilage problems are encountered with commercial tortillas on spaceflight missions longer than seven days. A tortilla with a shelf life of six months was developed. Students can compare the growth of mold on tortillas and various types of bread. They can then graph the results.
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The original design of the space food packaging for Projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo was light in weight and required minimum storage space. As spacecraft design improved, allowing for longer flight durations and larger crew and cargo capabilities, the food manifest also greatly improved. For instance, the space shuttle and ISS food lists contain nuts, shelled to reduce waste and mess. Onboard waste containment is a concern for spaceflight. In this three-part activity, students will minimize the mass of a grocery store package; determine the usable and waste portions of 10 nuts; determine the edible and waste portions of a piece of fruit; and calculate percentages of each.
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On board the space shuttle, dehydrated foods and drinks make up much of the menu. The major reason for using dehydrated foods and drinks is that water, a byproduct of the shuttle's fuel cells, is abundantly available for food preparation. Using rehydratable food and drinks significantly reduces weight. In this activity, students will dehydrate food and use a formula to calculate the percentage of moisture loss.
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The appendices for the Space Food and Nutrition Educator Guide supplement the activities within. The appendices include food and beverage lists for the shuttle and International Space Station; standard menus for Project Gemini, the shuttle and the ISS; a recipe for space tortillas; and the USDA Food Guide Pyramid. A short reference list with books and journal articles is also included.
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