Thursday, September 30, 2010

NASA JSC - ODIN, Apollo and the Red Phone



Today I am spending time with Stephen and let me tell you, he is way fun and let's me get my hands on all the buttons! He took me back to the Mission Control Center here at JSC. 

My friend, Stephen, is a flight controller for the International Space Station. We sat at the  ODIN console and watched the Expedition 25 crew members work onboard the ISS completing maintenance tasks and performing science projects. ODIN (which stands for Onboard Data Interfaces and Network) is one of several flight controllers in the control room. Each controller is responsible for a different system onboard the ISS.
Stephen and I inside the FCR-1, which is the ISS Control Room

Amy and Stephen - part of the ODIN Console
ODIN manages the computers of the ISS, which requires a lot of commanding from the ground to keep the crew safe. The 47 onboard computers integrate with and control the other avionics systems of the ISS: thermal, power, communications, navigation, environmental.  I was even able to command the Space Station's computers as it travelled around the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour! (once I get to the ISS I will be the fastest traveling rubber chicken in history!). 

Stephen was so kind to me and even gave me an ISS Expedition 24 pin for my EVA suit. 

Not only that - but he took me into the original Apollo control room. This is truly an amazing room. That's where the Apollo 11 mission was flown from and people inside this control room witnessed the first human foot steps on the moon. Further more, Gene Granz and his team successfully brought home the Apollo 13 crew right from inside here. 

But first, let's talk about Stephen for a second. 

Tell me Stephen, when you were a kid, what were your dreams?

"As a kid, I always dreamed of one day flying into space onboard a Space Shuttle.  Movies like "Apollo 13" made me feel like I was part of the action.  As I always had this dream of being an astronaut, it became a reality that astronauts are not the only defined heroes of human spaceflight."

I love hearing that. But it is not easy to become an Astronaut. Look at me, my Space Flight future is uncertain. But like you said, there are so many people behind the scenes that make sending people to space reality. 

"Yes, there are thousands of people on the ground that make human spaceflight a reality.  I joined the ISS flight control team in 2007 following graduation from Louisiana Tech University."

And what do you do here in the ISS flight control room?

"As an ODIN (Onboard Data Interfaces and Networks), I am responsible for command and control of the onboard ISS computers.  These computers are not your average PC, as they control all of the onboard avionics systems which make long-duration human space flight possible on the ISS.  Being a flight controller of a space vehicle takes years of training and certification.  Being tough and competent and ready to handle any onboard failure or emergency is what we train for over and over again.  Priority number one is to keep your crew safe onboard.  Problem solving skills are important, as are discipline and communication."

Stephen, everyone I have met in here and the Shuttle control room, is truly amazing! You guys have a lot of responsibilities. I have a lot of respect for all of you and know that I know more about what you all do, I am even more excited to watch the various interactions between you, the crew on the ISS and the crew on the Shuttle during a Shuttle mission.
MOCR (Mission Operations Control Room)

After we finished our work in the ISS control room (known as FCR-1), we headed to the historic mission control room from the Apollo program.  Known as the MOCR (Mission Operations Control Room), this is the very room where the flight control team landed the first humans on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission and where Flight Director, Gene Kranz, led his team to a successful return of the Apollo 13 crew.  Wow! 

There were two Mission Operations Control Rooms (MOCR) in the early days. MOCR1 was used for Apollo 7, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and the Skylab mission. But MOCR2 was used for all other Gemini and Apollo flights. It was last used in 1992 for the STS-53 mission and then was converted back to its Apollo-era configuration and preserved for historical purposes. 
Deke Slayton (check jacket) shows the adapter devised to make use of square Command Module lithium hydroxide canisters to remove excess carbon dioxide from the Apollo 13 LM cabin. As detailed in Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger, the adapter was devised by Ed Smylie. From left to right members of Slayton's audience are Flight Director Milton L. Windler, Deputy Direct/Flight Operations Howard W. Tindall, Director/Flight Operations Sigurd A. Sjoberg, Deputy Director/Manned Spaceflight Center Christopher C. Kraft, and Director/Manned Spaceflight Center Robert R. Gilruth
These consoles are very different than those the Space Station and Shuttle control teams use. The Apollo teams had very little data on their spacecraft that landed on the moon. Even though the control team told me not to, I decided to push the big red button on the console. I followed that up with a quick call on the red phone in the back of the room.  It's a good thing the Apollo room is not actively controlling a space vehicle anymore, or we could have been in trouble!
Do NOT push the red button! 
It was amazing to see how space vehicles such as the Apollo spacecrafts, the Space Shuttles, and the International Space Station are managed by the ground controllers.  The Space Station team in Mission Control Houston work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to keep humans in space.  The US control team manages many onboard systems that all interface with the Russian, European, and Japanese segments.  This really shows how international cooperation can lead to great things, and I was happy to be a part of it!

Houston calling. It's Camilla speaking! 
The red phone was the Mission Control team’s direct link to the US Department of Defense.  If the crew or ground team ran into “issues” requiring the assistance of the DoD, they would have a way to get quick response.  The Space Shuttle program also supported classified DoD missions from this very room prior to the Columbia accident, and the ISS program supports some DoD payloads onboard.  The direct link to the DoD still exists, but the red phone in the Apollo MOCR is quite symbolic.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NASA JSC - The Commander and I

JSC is home to the NASA astronaut corps and is responsible for training space explorers from the United States and our space station partner nations. So It's no wonder that around a corner you could bump into an astronaut. NASA astronauts do more than travel to space. While not in space or training for an upcoming mission, they partake in other activities within JSC and sometimes other NASA centers. Then let's not forget all the Educational and Public Appearances. 
Astronaut Chris Hadfield and I. My first Canadian Space
Agency Astronaut and future Commander experience! 
Last Friday evening I went to see the a fun musical event. Astronaut Chris Hadfield and Astronaut Cady Coleman performed with their fold band Bandella. Also in the band was Dan Burbank, another future ISS Commander. It was Cady's last gig before she departs for her time aboard the International Space Station. While I had previously met Cady (her and I were practicing our High C's together), I was too chicken to go and introduce myself to the future Commander of the ISS. 


So on Monday my dear friend Liz (remember Liz and her experiments investigating the effects of spaceflight on human behavior?) contacted Chris Hadfield and the wonderful person he is, immediately scheduled an appointment to "see me". He is one busy Astronaut these days, training for his time onboard the ISS in 2012 and then taking over the Command of the Space Station in March of 2013. This will mark a special day for the Canadian Space Agency! He was just about to fly to Kennedy Space Center and be there for the arrival of the very last SRB (Solid Rocket Boosters). 


So we sat down and he showed me some amazing pictures on the wall. I learned a lot about him and the more he told me, the more I realized what an accomplished person he is. 


He was born in Canada, got a BA in Mechanical Engineering (with honors!) from the Royal Military College. Then he conducted post-graduate research at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and got his Master of Science in Aviation Systems at the University of Tennessee. 


I discovered that Chris became interested in flying at a very young age and so I was not surprised to learn that he won a glider pilot scholarschip at age 15 as an Air Cadet and a year later a powered pilot scholarship. Chris decided to join the Canadian Armed forces (that's where he got his BA in Mechanical Engineering) and soon was named Top Pilot, later took honors as the overall top graduate from Basic Jet Training in Saskatchewan and then he trained as a fighter pilot in Albert on CF-5s and CF-18s. 
Canada's CF-18
Over the next three years Chris flew the CF-18 for the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) and he flew the first CF-18 interception of a Soviet "Bear" aircraft. From there Chris went on to attend the United States Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. in the late 80s and early 90s he test flew the F/A-18 and A-7 aircraft. And he also started to do research work with NASA on pitch control margin simulation and flight and completing the first military flight of F/A-18 enhanced performance engines and lead some other really amazing tests. He has flown over 90 different types of aircrafts and I would fly with Chris anytime of the day and night! 


This career as NASA is as impressive, if not more! In 1992 Chris was selected to become one of four Canadian astronauts from a field of over 5,300 applicants and later that year the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) assigned him to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. He quickly got involved in technical and safety issues for the Shuttle Operations Development and contributed to the development of the glass shuttle cockpit.
The space shuttle orbiter's glass cockpit fitted with
an eleven panel full color display Multifunction
Electronic Display Systems (MEDS)
STS-74 (Atlantis) was Chris' first spaceflight and as a Mission Specialist he witnessed the 2nd space shuttle mission to rendezvous and dock with the Russian Space Station Mir. He became the only Canadian to have boarded Mir. 


Mid 90s to early 2000s he NASA's Chief CAPCOM (which by now you know what it means - go back to my day with Holly inside MCC). He hold that position for 25 consecutive space shuttle missions. 


STS-100 (Endeavour) was his 2nd mission to Space. This time he visited the International Space Station and delivered and installed the Canadarm2, the new Canadian-built robotic arm. He performed two spacewalks and became also the first Canadian to freely float in space outside a spacecraft.  One of Chris' crew mate was another friend of mine; Scott Parazynski. Two together deployed the UHF antenna on the Destiny lab and then installed Candaarm2. Two days later they went into the darkness of space together again to connect power and data grapple fixture circuits for the new arm on Destiny. They also moved a spare Direct Current Switching Unit (DCSU) from the shuttle's payload bay to the storage rack outside Destiny. 
Astronaut Scott Parazynski and I having
fun. He performed two spacewalks with
Chris on STS-100.
The next 2 years, through 2003, he was the Director of Operations for NASA at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia. There he also trained to become fully qualified to be a flight engineer cosmonaut in the Soyuz TMA spacecraft, and to perform spacewalks in the Russian Orlan Spacesuit. 
Chris in the Russian Orlan Spacesuit
From 2003 to 2006 Chris served as the Chief of Robotics and from 2006 to 2008 he was the Chief of International Space Station Operations. 


During 2008 and 2009 Chris was the backup for Dr. Bob Thirsk for Expedition 20/21, a long-duriation spaceflight, training to live and work onboard the ISS. 


Earlier this year Mr. Hadfield was the Commander of NEEMO 14, the NASA undersea mission to test exploration concepts living in an underwater facility off the Florida coast. NEEMO 14 used the ocean floor to simulate exploration missions to the surface of astroids, moons and Mars in order to gain a better understanding of how astronaut crews interact with equipment including advanced spacesuits, a lander, a rover and robotic arms. 
Part of the NEEMO 14 crew
And this summer he was part of the Pavilion Lake research team off of Vancouver. Pavilion Lake is one of the few places on Earth where microbialites are founds. The team used a combination of remotely operated vehicles, autonomous underwater vehicles, SCUBA divers and DeepWorker submersibles to help understand how the microbialites formed and possible make it easier to identify potential of extraterrestrial life on future missions to Mars. 
Pavillion Lake with one of the DeepWorker chase boats, looking south
And just this month, Chris Hadfield was assigned to Expedition 34/35. In 2012 he will make this third trip to space, this time on the Russian Soyuz and will partake in a long-duration spaceflight aboard the ISS. Then during this second portion of this stay, he will take over Command of the ISS and also be the first Canadian to command a Spaceship. 




Follow Astronaut Chris Hadfield on Twitter! @cmdr_Hadfield



NASA JSC - Cindy; From Challenger to working on the ISS

The more time I spend here at NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center, the more people I get to meet, the more I realize that every single person so far has had a dream. A dream to someday work around space science or exploration. Many of the wonderful people I have met here knew as kids that they someday wanted to really reach for the stars. Others realized in their teens that Astronomy or Space Science was their calling. What it has taught me so far is that no matter what your dream is, no matter what it is you want - you can make it happen. Yes, it takes determination, patience and sometimes some luck. And not always is it a straight shot. Sometimes there are detours - and it's not always about the goal, but about the journey too. And after all, life is not a sprint, but a marathon. 

Today I would like to introduce to you to another very special friend of mine. Cindy and I have known each other for some time and she has kindly offered to host me, make my bed most nights and share her sweets with me. (Sorry Cindy for raiding your chocolate stash the other night...). 

Let me go back a few years - when Cindy was in fifth grade. She would play basketball but run home as soon as practice ended because this show called Star Trek was airing on TV. Cindy sat in front of the TV watching how far human kind in this series has gotten. 
Star Trek has influenced many of us
She then joined the Young Astronauts Club at school and like the entire world, was truly heart broken when we lost the crew of Challenger. That day she made up her mind to step into their footsteps and finish their mission, thinking that she would have enough time as NASA was still going to study Halley's Comet
Cindy started to work on the ISS right before the
ISS looked like this. FBG module and Node 1

So little Cindy put her mind to it and continued her education, which took her to Purdue University for an aeronautical and astronautical engineering undergraduate degree and a MBA from Rice University. While at Purdue University Cindy was the President of SEDS and she established numerous educational outreach programs for K-12 students because she felt it was important to inspire the next generation and give them opportunity to explore.  Cindy also applied 3 times for a Space Camp Scholarship and was selected in 10th grade to attend Space Academy LevelII - her winning paper was on NASA spinoffs. 
This is what the ISS looked right after Cindy transferred
to Constellation. The US Assembly of the Space Station
was completed. 
The Yuri picture inside
the training center
Star City is a beautiful
piece of art & reminder.
Then about 12 years ago she started working on the International Space Station (ISS) Program in Guidance, Navigation, Control & Propulsion (GNC/P). As an instructor she was responsible for integrating the U.S. and Russian GNC astronaut training flow, combining the best aspects of both training programs. For that worked she was warded the Silver Snoopy award! (Cindy treasures that award to this day and I asked her to hang it above my bed while visiting her!). Cindy also traveled to Star City in Russia many times and spent many months at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center to negotiate and develop and integrated training flow and lessons.
Star City, Russia - the training center is at the lower right portion of the picture.
The "city" is at the top half.

While in Star City Cindy and her Russian coworkers
watched Mir deorbit. Her coworkers had worked
supporting Mir since 1987 and the ISS was truly
the new kid in town.
Systems Integration is the area most of her career has been spent, working on the esteemed ISS Vehicle Integrated Performance, Environment & Resources (VIPER) Team. She served as the lead of the VIPER Console in the Mission Evaluation Room (MER) responsible for preparing for most of the docked Shuttle missions to ISS and training our team to support console 24/7. In addition she provided numerous integrated solutions for problems, such as water dumps, gravity gradients, and debris avoidance maneuvers. 

The past two years Cindy worked as a NASA contractor on the Constellation Program, again as a system engineer, primarily responsible for requirements design compliance, making sure the spacecraft and rocket designs meet the intent of NASA's requirements. The Constellation Program was developed to return humans to the moon to learn the skills required and develop the necessary technologies to then tackle a manned trip to Mars.


These days Cindy is working on many internal projects for an Aerospace Company. One close to hear heart is called Project Moongoose (named by followers on Twitter). Project Moongoose hopes to provide ISS participatory exploration. 

Cindy can be followed on Twitter at @txflygirl - her updates are her own thoughts and impressions. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

NASA JSC - I have the Munchies...

After my note about Space Food Systems Laboratory I got so many more questions about the actual food and meals Astronauts eat. Here I will try to answer some of those questions. 


First and foremost, the foods they eat aboard the Space Shuttle or the ISS are neither blend nor unsavory. The food systems and menu items have evolved tremendously since the days of the Mercury Program. Just check out the previous notes with pictures of the menus. 


First Meal in Orbit
John Glenn, America's first man to eat anything in the near-weightless environment of Earth orbit, found the task of eating fairly easy, but found the menu to be limited. Other Mercury astronauts had to endure bite-sized cubes, freeze- dried powders and semi-liquids packaged in aluminum tubes. Most agreed the foods were unappetizing and disliked squeezing the tubes. Moreover, freeze-dried foods were hard to rehydrate and crumbs had to be prevented from fouling instruments.

February 20, 1962 - A weightless applesauce tube floats
 free following a snack by astronaut John Glenn in the
 course of his first orbit during the Mercury
 "Friendship 7" mission.
Gemini brings improvements
Eating on the Gemini missions improved somewhat. Bite-sized cubes were coated with gelatin to reduce crumbling, and the freeze-dried foods were encased in a special plastic container to make reconstituting easier. With improved packaging came improved food quality and menus. Gemini astronauts had such food choices as shrimp cocktail, chicken and vegetables, butterscotch pudding, and applesauce, and were able to select meal combinations themselves.

By the time of the Apollo Program, the quality and variety of food increased even further. Apollo astronauts were the first to have hot water, which made rehydrating foods easier and improved the food’s taste. These astronauts were also the first to use utensils via the “spoon bowl,” a plastic container that could be opened and its contents eaten with a spoon. Thermostabilized pouches were also introduced on Apollo.

Skylab a Five * Gourmet Place
The task of eating in space got a big boost in Skylab. Unlike previous space vehicles for astronauts, Skylab featured a large interior area where space was available for a dining room and table. Eating for Skylab’s three-member teams was a fairly normal operation: Footholds allowed them to situate themselves around the table and “sit” to eat. Added to the conventional knife, fork and spoon was a pair of scissors for cutting open plastic seals. Because Skylab was relatively large and had ample storage area, it could feature an extensive menu: 72 different food items. It also had a food freezer and refrigerator – a convenience no other vehicle has offered, before or since.

Skylab Tray and Food

Space Food Systems Laboratory
The kinds of foods crewmembers eat aboard the space shuttle are not mysterious concoctions, but foods prepared here on Earth. Many are commercially available on grocery store shelves. Astronauts select their own menus from a large array of food items. Diets are designed to supply each astronaut with 100 percent of the daily value of vitamins and minerals neces- sary for the environment of space. For instance, a small woman would require only about 1,900 calories a day, while a large man would require about 3,200 calories. There are also many types of foods an astronaut can choose from such as fruits, nuts, peanut butter, chicken (not me!), beef, seafood, candy, brownies, etc... Drinks range from coffee, tea, orange juice, fruit punches and lemonade.

Foods flown on space missions are researched and developed at the Space Food Systems Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, which is staffed by food scientists, dietitians and engineers. Foods are analyzed through nutritional analysis, sensory evaluation, storage studies, packaging evaluations and many other methods.

Food evaluations are conducted with shuttle flight crews about eight to nine months before the scheduled launch date. During the food evaluation sessions, the astronaut samples a variety of foods and beverages available for flight. Crewmembers choose their menus and can repeat days or not repeat days at their discretion. They plan a breakfast, lunch and dinner; snacks are listed with the meals. Types of food available include rehydratable, thermostabilzed, irradiated and natural form items.
President Bill Clinton prepares to use a fork to sample some space food while visiting NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC). Holding the food packet is U.S. Sen. John H. Glenn Jr. (D.-Ohio), currently in training at JSC as a payload specialist for a flight scheduled later this year aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. Looking on is astronaut Curtis L. Brown Jr., STS-95 commander. The picture was taken in the full fuselage trainer (FFT). Photo Credit: Joe McNally, National Geographic, for NASA

Rehydratable items include both foods and beverages. One way weight can be conserved during launch is to remove water from certain food items. During the flight, water generated by the shuttle fuel cells is added back to the food just before it is eaten.

Foods such as nuts, granola bars and cookies are classified as natural form foods. They are ready to eat, are packaged in clear, flexible pouches that are cut open with scissors, and require no further preparation for consumption in flight.

Did you know salt and pepper are available but only in a liquid form? This is because astronauts can't sprinkle salt and pepper on their food in space. The salt and pepper would simply float away. There is a danger they could clog air vents, contaminate equipment or get stuck in an astronaut's eyes, mouth or nose. 

Dinner is Served on Discovery
On the space shuttle, food is prepared at a galley installed on the orbiter’s middeck. The galley is a modular unit that contains a water dispenser and an oven. The water dispenser is used for rehydrating foods and beverages, and the galley oven is used for warming foods to the proper serving temperature. During a typical meal in space, a meal tray is used to hold the food containers. The tray can be attached to an astronaut’s lap by a strap or attached to a wall. The meal tray becomes the astronaut’s dinner plate and enables the astronaut to choose from several foods at once, just like a meal at home. Without the tray, the contents of one container must be completely consumed before opening another. The tray also holds the food packages in place and keeps them from floating away. Following the meal, food containers are discarded in the trash compartment below the middeck floor. Eating utensils and food trays are cleaned with premoistened, sanitizing towelettes.
The STS-131 Crew share a meal together before launch. I spy Clay! 

Food Supply to the ISS & the importance of WaterFor shuttle flights, the menu planning process starts eight to nine months before the scheduled launch. For station expedi- tions, menu planning is not based on when the crew is sched- uled to launch but rather on when the food for that crew is scheduled to launch. Thus, when a crew arrives on board the station, a good portion of its food is already there.

International Space Station (ISS) crewmembers have a menu cycle of eight days, meaning the menu repeats every eight days. This cycle may be increased to add further variety to the menus. Half of the food system is U.S. and half is Russian; plans are to include foods of other ISS partner countries in the future, including Japan and Canada. The packaging system for the daily menu food is based on single-service, disposable containers. Single-service containers eliminate the need for a dishwasher. Since the electrical power for the ISS is generated from solar panels rather than from fuel cells (as on the shuttle), there is no extra water generated on board the station. Water is recycled from cabin air, but not enough for significant use in the food system. Hence, the percentage of rehydratable foods will decrease and the percentage of the thermostabilized foods will increase over time. However, in general, the ISS food system is similar to the shuttle food system using the same types of food – thermostabilized, rehydratable, natural form, and irradiated – and the same packaging methods and materials. As on the shuttle, beverages on the ISS are in powdered form. The water temperature is different on the station; unlike the shuttle, there is no chilled water. Station crewmembers have only ambient, warm and hot water available to them.

Here's a couple of food packets; a packet of apricot juice, a can of lamb with vegetables, a silver packet with lasagna (grand-ma style!), and a packages of breakd and dried fruit. 

May I take your order?
All ISS increment crewmembers taste or sample every U.S. food item and score (or rate) them based upon how well they like them. Then while training in Russia, they repeat the procedure for the Russian food items. U.S. and Russian dietitians use those scores (or ratings) to plan menus for each Expedition crew.
Once the menu is compiled, the crews attend a training session in Russia to try the actual menu. The crew makes its final changes, and the menu is finalized before it is packaged. The U.S. half of the menu is prepared in Houston and shipped to Florida or Russia depending upon where it is going to be launched. The Russians prepare their half of the menu and launch it on the Progress vehicle. Most of the food is stored in the Zarya and Node 2 modules in Russian food boxes. Fresh items are delivered to station crews when either a shuttle or a Progress docks.

No Iron for me, please!
The amount of iron in an astronaut’s diet should be less than 10 milligrams per day for both men and women. Astronauts have fewer red blood cells while they are in space. Most of the iron absorbed from food goes into new red blood cells. If astronauts were to eat foods high in iron, the iron would be stored in their bodies and could cause health problems.

No Sodium for this Astronium
Sodium and vitamin D affect bone. The amount of sodium in the astronauts’ diet is limited because too much can lead to bone loss as well as other health problems.

Double shot of Vitamin D, please! 
The body usually makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, but spacecraft are shielded to protect the astronauts from harmful radiation. On Earth and in microgravity, people need vitamin D for healthy bones. Vitamin D supplements are recommended for space travelers on the ISS, since the current space foods do not provide enough of this vitamin.

Astro-Sweet-Tooth (AST)
The astronauts can eat warm desserts such as cobbler and bread pudding in space and they can have a meal replacement drink in space that is either vanilla, strawberry or chocolate. 

Peggy Whiteson (remember me and "flat Peggy"?) after her Expedition 5 mission "My favorite space food was peanut butter. I'm not a big fan of it on the ground, but couldn't get enough of it in space.". 

Astronaut Peggy A. Whiteson (right) and Cosmonaut Sergei Y. Treschev, both Expedition 5 flight engineers, share a meal in the Zvezda Service Module on the ISS. 

Holidays in Space
Astronauts Gerald Carr, William Pogue and Edward Gibson celebrated the first Thanksgiving in space in 1973. They were the third crew to live on Skylab.

Thanksgiving was celebrated on Space Shuttle Columbia and the Russian Mir space station in 1996 and 1997. The STS-80 crew celebrated Thanksgiving aboard Columbia in 1996 as Astronaut John Blaha celebrated the holiday on Mir with Russian Cosmonauts Valery Korzun and Kaleri.

Again, Expedition 5 NASA ISS Science Officer Peggy Whitson said that her Thanksgiving in space is one that she will always remember. She wrote, "For Thanksgiving, it was a lot like being home, except that we (Station crew) were hosts to our visiting family/friends (STS-113 Shuttle crew). After a challenging day of work, which included the preparations for and the conduct of a space walk with robotic arm support, we celebrated with smoked turkey in foil pouches, rehydrated mash potatoes (unfortunately sans gravy), and rehydrated green beans with mushrooms (better than it might sound). "Blueberry-cherry cobbler, compliments of our guests, and served on a tortilla was a real dessert treat for the Station crew, since that was not included in our meal rotations. Celebrating this holiday in space with some visiting friends was a very special experience, one that I will remember fondly in Thanksgivings to come."

Cosmonaut Vladimir N. Dezhurov (left) and Mikhail Tyurin, both Expedition 3 flight engineers representing
Rosaviakosmos, eat a Thanksgiving meal in the Zvezda Service Module on the ISS
.

What's Cooking for the Future?
Two different food systems will be used for future long-duration missions to other planets, one for traveling to and from the distant body and one for use on the surface of the Moon or planet. The transit food system will be similar to the ISS food system with the exception that products with three- to five-year shelf lives will be needed, especially for a mission to Mars. Thus, this part of the trip will be similar to what occurs aboard space missions now – eating out of food packages and heating food items in a similar fashion. 






First there was astronaut ice cream.
Now insects may become the next food
 frontier for space cuisine. The Space Agriculture
 Task Force, affiliated with the Japanese space agency,
is looking for ways to feed astronauts on
 extended missions, like on a stint to Mars.
A long stay on the Red Planet would require
 travelers to grow their own food, but a vegetable-
 and grain-based diet doesn’t efficiently supply fats
 and amino acids.
 Image courtesy of Akiko Yamashita / Discovery Magazine
.

The surface food system, be it lunar or planetary, will be quite different. It will be similar to a vegetarian diet that someone could cook on Earth – minus the dairy products. Once crewmembers arrive on the surface and establish living quarters, they can start growing crops. Possible crops that could be grown and harvested

include potatoes (sweet and white), soybeans, wheat, peanuts, dried beans, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, herbs, carrots, radishes, cabbage and rice. Once the crops are processed into edible ingredients, cooking will be done in the spacecraft’s galley to make the food items.


BTW - curious what Space Shuttle Commander Steve Lindsey ate for breakfast during Flight Day 2 on STS-104?

Granola w/Raisins - Rehydratable
Breakfast Roll - Fresh Food
Pears - Thermostabilized
Vanilla Breakfast Drink - Beverage
Kona Coffee w/C & S X2 - Beverage
Earl Grey Tea w/ Sugar - Fresh Food 

Astronaut Steven Lindsey, seen here preparing a meal during his most recent shuttle mission in 2006, will lead an all-veteran crew, launching very soon!

Oh, and here is a fun video of Astronaut Soichi making Sushi on the ISS! 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Astro Munchies - It's out of this World

Let's talk about food for a moment! No, not what I usually eat, but about Space Food! For that I visited the Space Food Systems Laboratory, which is located in Building 17 at Johnson Space Center and is comprised of four laboratories: a Test Kitchen, fully equipped with sensory testing capabilities; a Food Processing Laboratory (Pilot Plant); a Food Packaging Laboratory; and an Analytical Laboratory.


Here I am visiting the Space Food Systems Laboratory. No! I am not part of the food chain!
The Space Food Systems Laboratory has the capability to fabricate custom-molded flight food containers; process foods using a variety of stabilization techniques, including freezing and freeze-drying; package foods in a nitrogen environment for long-term storage; provide long-term controlled environment storage for processed foods; conduct physical and sensory analyses of food; evaluate prototype and flight food preparation hardware; and, develop food preparation and serving techniques for space flight.


Food scientist, Ms. Vicki. This is the new food packing facility
The Space Food Systems Laboratory is a multipurpose laboratory responsible for space food and package research and development. This facility designs, develops, evaluates and produces flight food, menus, packaging, and food-related ancillary hardware for Shuttle, Space Station, and Advanced Food Systems. Capabilities of this facility include: food product development, food preservation technology, sensory evaluation, menu planning, freeze dehydration, blast freezing, package development, fabrication and design of packaging equipment, physical testing of packages and materials, and modified and controlled atmosphere packaging.

Space Food Systems Laboratory Work Area
Evidence strongly supports the role of nutrition in maintaining the health and optimal performance of astronauts during space flights and return to Earth. The key to providing good nutrition in support of human space flight is to provide high-quality food products that are appetizing, nutritious, and safe and easy to prepare and eat. The mission of the Space Food Systems Laboratory is to provide high-quality flight food systems that are convenient, compatible with each crew member's physiological and psychological requirements, meet spacecraft stowage and galley interface requirements, and are easy to prepare and eat in the weightlessness of space.

Space Food Research Facility Retort
The Advanced Food Technology (AFT) project is part of the Space Human Factors and Habitability (SHFH) element of the Human Research Program (HRP). The ultimate goal of AFT is to develop and deliver technologies for human centered spacecraft that will support crews on missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond.

AFT is responsible for developing food systems for space vehicles and long duration missions that use a combination of extended shelf life stored foods and raw food products produced from higher plants or bulk raw commodities. AFT research addresses nutritional, psychological, safety, and acceptability requirements, while minimizing mass, volume, power, waste and trace gas emissions. In doing so, the AFT must address different mission scenarios that present challenges beyond conventional knowledge concerning food. The goals of the AFT are to:
  • Develop a stored food system that is nutritious, palatable and provides a sufficient variety of foods to support significant crew activities on a mission of at least 3 years duration. Foods should maintain safety, acceptability, and nutrition for the entire shelf life of 3 - 5 years. Shelf life extension may be attained through new food preservation methods and/or packaging.
  • Develop new packaging technologies to minimize waste from packaged food.
  • Develop handling procedures for minimally processed vegetable crops.
  • Develop equipment to process crops in reduced gravity that are highly automated, highly reliable, safe, and minimize crew time, power, water, mass, and volume.
  • Develop recipes, galley operations, and galley equipment for extended surface missions.
Space Food Systems Laboratory packaging facility
Current activities of the AFT are concentrating on near term needs in order to augment the Shuttle and ISS food system while working towards an advanced food system. Activities include:
  • Shelf life testing of thermally processed foods.
  • Identification and testing of packaging materials with high barrier properties and low mass and volume.
  • Investigation of emerging preservation technologies that wil provide extended shelf life food items with improved nutrition and acceptability.

Mercury and Gemini Food 1961-1966

Apollo Food 1968-1972

Skylab Food and Tray 1973 - 1974

Early Space Shuttle Rehydratables, 1981-1986


Shuttle Food Tray

Freeze-dried Foods

Natural foods and condiments

International Space Station Food Container


Placing Veggies into Freeze Drier

STS-124 Food Session prior to launch.

The crew of STS-130 bringing food supplies to the habitants of the ISS.

This could be the future? A Greenhouse on Mars

After all this food talk I am now hungry too!