Astronauts chow down on meal designed by students

Tim Kopra, commander of the space station, and flight engineers Jeff Williams and Tim Peake eat spicy Jamaican rice and ...
Tim Kopra, commander of the space station, and flight engineers Jeff Williams and Tim Peake eat spicy Jamaican rice and beans with coconut milk made by students from Phoebus High School in Hampton, Va. Photo: NASA/YouTube

The brief video shows a few working guys on a lunch break. Having gotten delivery, they're gathered around a gadget-packed desk, eating from takeaway containers. But what a delivery it was: The meal, designed by a team of students from Phoebus High School in Hampton, Va., was zoomed up to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon.

In the video, posted on NASA.gov, Tim Kopra, commander of the space station, and flight engineers Jeff Williams and Tim Peake are eating spicy Jamaican rice and beans with coconut milk, the Hampton kids' winning entry in the HUNCH (High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware) Culinary Challenge. Finals in the competition were held last year (NASA plans waaaaay ahead) at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

The entrees had to be vegetarian. (Astronauts do eat meat, but NASA has shown an interest in developing vegetarian menus because vegetables are easier to grow and to preserve than meat or dairy products.) The meals, which were judged on taste, texture, aroma, appearance and overall sensory evaluation, had to meet the per-serving nutritional guidelines set by NASA's Space Food Systems Laboratory: 300 to 500 calories, calories from fat less than 30 percent, calories from saturated fat 10 percent or less, no more than 300 milligrams of sodium and eight grams of sugar, and at least three grams of fibre.

Oh, and the food had to "process well for flight and for use in microgravity."

The extraterrestrial lunch crew pronounced the meal "tasty" and congratulated the winning team.

And the contest goes on: On April 21, the HUNCH program staged this year's cook-off, with 10 teams competing.

Entries included:

- Butternut squash puree from Trussville (Ala.) High

- Falafel from Oakridge High School in Conroe, Texas

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- Veggie meatball from Windsor (Conn.) High

- Red pepper risotto created by students from Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne, N.J. *winner*

The space travel-ready dishes will be delivered to the space station sometime in 2017.

Let's hope they tip well.

Washington Post

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