It was forty years ago that Neil Armstong famously uttered “that's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” after setting foot on the moon on the 20th day of July in 1969 – but what did he have for his dinner?
The first American to eat in space was John Glenn in 1962, a year after the Russian Yuri Gagarin. There was much concern over the human body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients in a weightless environment but nevertheless John Glenn sat down to a nice tube of applesauce with no seeming ill effects. Food for space flights, at this time, was based on army rations and with the added problems of food floating away they came up with the unappetizing sounding tubes of beef and vegetables. The food was so bad that in 1965 the first reprimand for smuggling onboard a corned beef sandwich was handed out to John W Young.
By 1969 NASA was increasingly meeting the challenge to provide lightweight, compact, tasty and nutritious meals, which didn’t need refrigeration. They had developed ‘Wet Packs’ which were flexible plastic and foil pouches which kept the food inside them moist. In these they prepared bacon squares, beef sandwiches, fruitcake and even chocolate pudding.
Apollo 11 was the first spacecraft to have the benefits of hot water which saw the development of the ‘Spoon Bowl’. Here dehydrated food was zipped inside a bowl and after injecting hot water inside; the wet rehydrated food would now cling to the spoon. They also ‘freeze dried’ food, the food was quick frozen then placed into a vacuum chamber to remove all moisture. Making appetizing food for consumption in space was always going to be very demanding with the added hindrance of astronauts being unable to actually smell the food whilst in space. A quick grind of salt and pepper wasn’t an option either as it would simply float away.
What the estimated 700 million people tuning in to watch tv at the time didn’t see, was Buzz Aldrin and co having dinner. They are reputed to have drunk rehydrated coffee, munched on hot dogs and bacon squares followed on by peaches. But the very first thing eaten on the moon was a communion wafer eaten by Neil Armstrong during a communion ceremony which he held for himself a couple of hours after landing.
Photos courtesy of NASA