Rita Rapp: Astronaut Meal Planner

Astronaut’s in-space diet has always been an interesting topic. How does it taste? What is the texture? Does it float off on purpose in search of a home planet? QTNA!

Although this piece via Smithsonian only answers a few of those questions, it is still an interesting look at Rita Rapp and how she pioneered space food.

When NASA’s 1970s space station Skylab orbited the Earth, astronauts loved Rita Rapp’s homemade cookies so much that they used them as currency. “We could incentivize a fellow crew member to do something for us with a bribe of sugar cookies from our personal allotment,” said astronaut and physicist Owen Garriott. These men, trapped together on multi-week tours of duty, chose a very down-to-earth mode of negotiation. To them, Rapp’s cookies were as good as gold—just like her other creative ideas to give the astronauts food that was both nutritious and tasty.

A physiologist who planned astronauts’ meals from the Apollo program of the late 1960s through the early shuttle flights of the 1980s, Rapp never settled for making space travelers “rough it,” as John Glenn did when he ate apple sauce from a tube in 1962. For her, there was always a better way: She simply had to find it. Over and over again, she succeeded. Whether she expanded the variety of foods, offered seasoning options, preserved flavor by improving packaging, or changed preparation methods during flight, Rapp constantly sought opportunities to make eating a good experience for astronauts far from home, even if that required preparing food to please an individual astronaut.

Read more.

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