Shuttle Atlantis to Launch Without ISS Chef Special
When NASA's shuttle Atlantis launches toward the International Space Station Wednesday, its six-astronaut crew will leave the chef special at home.
Tucked away among the 750 pounds (340 kilograms) of cargo in Atlantis' middeck lockers are some fresh fruit and vegetables, but no gourmet meals akin to those designed by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and launched to the ISS aboard Discovery in July, NASA spokesperson William Jeffs told SPACE.com.
Admittedly, the primary mission of Atlantis' STS-115 mission, which is commanded by veteran NASA astronaut Brent Jett, is to resume construction of the ISS and attach two new trusses and a shiny pair of solar wings that will double the station's current power supply once activated later this year. The mission is set to launch on Sept. 6 at 12:28:46 p.m. EDT (1628:46 GMT).
But the space station's three-astronaut crew - Expedition 13 commander Pavel Vinogradov and flight engineers Jeffrey Williams and Thomas Reiter - will likely miss the zesty orbital meals dreamed up by Lagasse and delivered to the ISS during July's STS-121 shuttle mission.
"It was so tasty, we absolutely loved it all," Vinogradov told Lagasse during a space-to-ground phone call last month. "That was a true and wonderful surprise."
Lagasse designed recipes - which were prepared and packaged by NASA space food specialists - for mashed potatoes with bacon, green beans and garlic, rice pudding, mixed fruit and spicy Mardi Gras jambalaya, the latter of which scored high marks with the Expedition 13 crew.
"We have a longing for a little bit spicier food," Reiter told Lagasse. "Our perception of taste is a little bit decreased."
Lagasse told the ISS crew that he has been a long-time believer in human spaceflight.
"I have to tell you that ever since I was a little boy, I've been a huge fan of the space program," said Lagasse, whose recipes and ISS phone call will be featured in an October episode of his cooking show "Emeril Live." "I want to say what an absolute honor it is for you to share my food with you."
Williams, NASA's ISS science officer, told Lagasse that food is very important for station astronauts, and not just because it helps keep spaceflyers alive.
"It's very important for the morale of the crew," Williams said. "It's going to be very important for future expeditions when we leave Earth orbit and go on to Mars."
On Williams' short list of Earth foods which he misses most are an open cup of coffee - which he can taste more than the bagged and straw-drunk versions on the ISS - and his wife Anna-Marie's cooking.
"In general, I crave my wife's cooking," Williams told Lagasse. "She's an excellent cook and she makes some great salads."
Williams invited Lagasse to join the Expedition 13 crew as their official chef, if - of course - he's ever in their orbital neighborhood.
"Now, that would definitely be kicking it up a few notches," Lagasse said.
- VIDEO: First Tasks of NASA's STS-115 Mission
- Gallery: Prepping Atlantis
- Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage
- NASA's STS-115: Shuttle Atlantis to Jump Start ISS Construction
- The Great Space Quiz: Space Shuttle Countdown
- Complete Coverage: ISS Expedition 13
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