Crab meat set to blast off for International Space Station

crabs in space

The International Space Station has garnered a lot of "firsts" in its history and soon it will get its first crab meat delivery courtesy of NASA.  

The Miller's Select crab meat will fly up onboard NASA's shuttle mission STS119 which is expected to launch this week (though a liquid hydrogen tank problem delayed the launch today).

NASA says each astronaut is allowed a "bonus food allotment" to bring some of the comforts of home to outer space. The Miller's Select Jumbo Lump Crab Meat, in this case it seems aimed at current ISS engineer Sandy Magnus who has become something of a space chef, whipping up all manner of delights in plastic bags and other accoutrements of space kitchen life.

For its part Miller says the process of preparing food in space presents some challenges but its crab meat is up to the task. Mixed with a few condiments or right from the can, the pre-cooked crab chunks are ready to eat, the company said in a release.

Food can represent a peculiar threat to space life. You may recall that in 2007, an astronaut was trying to make a pretend sushi meal with bag-packaged salmon and accidentally squirted a blob of spicy wasabi into the air. After a lengthy cleanup, the wasabi was exiled to a cargo bay.

On the Space Shuttle, condiments are provided such as ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. Salt and pepper are available but only in a liquid form because astronauts can't sprinkle salt and pepper on their food in space - it would simply float away. There is a danger ketchup, salt and pepper or other favorites could clog air vents, contaminate equipment or get stuck in an astronaut's eyes, mouth or nose, NASA's Space Food Website says.

Despite its "threat" to the astronaut, spicy foods are popular in space because most of the food is dried in one form or another and zero gravity does nothing good for sinuses or flavor. And this article notes "NASA's food laboratory carefully balances diets between six categories: beverage, rehydratable, intermediate moisture, thermostabilized, irradiated, and natural form."Yum. Astronaut Don Pettit brought along small cans of green chilies on one Space shuttle trip. On a previous mission, taco sauce had become carefully guarded currency.

Astronaut Sid Gutierrez once said space shuttle crews always take spicy accouterments like taco sauce to make food taste better. The taco sauce, he said, also could be used for barter. "If it was your turn to say, clean the latrine, you could trade for two packets of taco sauce," he said.

Some packaging actually prevents food from flying away - always a major concern. This is the reason tortillas are taken along on the flight rather than bread - tortillas make far less crumbs than bread and crumbs are bad because they can potentially float around and get stuck in filters or an astronaut's eye, NASA says.

Of course carrying crab meat to the ISS is not even close to being the main part of this current Discovery mission. The Discovery crew members are set to fly a large truss segment and install the final set of power-generating solar arrays to the ISS. The truss will complete the backbone of the station and provide one-fourth of the total power needed to support a crew of six, NASA said.

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