COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Scientists at the Space Food Research Facility at Texas A&M University are making sure that astronauts celebrating Thanksgiving in space will get to enjoy the same delicious foods as their Earth-bound friends and family members, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said in a new video.
Since 2007, the Space Food Research Facility has produced more than 50 kinds of food items for astronauts on the International Space Station and throughout NASA’s human spaceflight program. Some of the holiday food items available in orbit will include sliced turkey, candied yams and even apricot cobbler. Food scientists at A&M create the flavorful dishes from the highest quality ingredients, and they take care to make sure that the crew members enjoy the best quality meals possible while in space.
Chancellor Sharp said most people don’t realize that much of the food consumed in space is made on the West Campus of Texas A&M University in College Station.
“Texas A&M is proud to feed our brave astronauts aboard the International Space Station,” he said. “You know the food is going to be tasty and healthful if it’s made at A&M with Aggie pride.”
Texas AgriLife, NASA and Wyle Laboratories (now KBRwyle) joined forces almost 10 years ago to develop the space food kitchen in College Station. The operation is housed in the Food Technology Facility for Electron Beam and Space Food Research on Discovery Drive in College Station.
At the Space Food Research Facility, food scientists use a retort system to produce thermostabilized food items, which contain water and differ from freeze-dried foods. The system uses heat and pressure to sterilize the food and to give it a shelf life of several years.
Few facilities can produce pouched thermostabilized products, making the Space Food Research Facility at A&M a vital food supplier for NASA.
The facility is used for education purposes, too, allowing food science students at Texas A&M to learn more about food processing practices.
Chancellor Sharp recently joined Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, a retired NASA astronaut and current professor at A&M’s Department of Aerospace Engineering, to sample some of the space meals made at A&M.
In the video, Dunbar explained to the chancellor and Ben O’Neil, a food scientist at the Space Food Research Facility, how astronauts choose – and eat – meals while in a weightless environment.
“The meats are really great,” Dr. Dunbar said. “It’s just like Thanksgiving dinner.”
About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities and seven state agencies, the Texas A&M System educates more than 140,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $946 million in FY 2015 and helped drive the state’s economy.
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