Best Orbital Eats: The Top 10 Space Foods
ISS Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson (right) and flight engineer Dan Tani wish viewers a happy Thanksgiving on NASA TV while preparing for a Nov. 24, 2007 spacewalk.
Credit: NASA TV.

Long gone are the days of an astronaut's food choices being limited to what you could squeeze from a toothpaste tube.

Today?s spaceflyer?s have a veritable cornucopia of culinary choices packed away in their orbital cupboards to make mealtimes a bit more interesting while flying high above the Earth. Just in time for Thanksgiving, we give thanks on behalf of all space explorers for the top 10 space foods of all time:

10. Shrimp Cocktail

It may be a fine appetizer on Earth, but for many astronauts, freeze-dried shrimp cocktail is a must-have staple. Why? Some attribute it to the lack of gravity. Without bodily fluids being pulled down to their feet, astronauts? heads become congested, dulling the taste of many foods. Shrimp cocktail and other spicy dishes are full of flavor and thus more desirable.

?It?s a favorite of almost everyone onboard the station,? said NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, commander of the Expedition 16 crew currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS), in a Thanksgiving video message this week.

9. Tomato and Basil Seeds

Looking for a way to engage students in spaceflight research, NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and other international organizations have flown millions (if not billions by now!) of plant seeds, the most popular being those for tomatoes and basil. Once back on Earth, kids are challenged to grow the space-exposed seeds and compare their fruit to grounded control samples. Anecdotal evidence suggests space tomatoes are delish!

8. Antimatter

Red Bull may "give you wings" but Antimatter is the only energy drink that can claim its ingredients were first flown in space. Produced by Microgravity Enterprises, Inc., Antimatter?s special blend of vitamins and minerals were carried aloft by UP Aerospace?s SpaceLoft XL suborbital rocket in 2006 and 2007. If power drinks are not to your taste, the company also offers Comet?s Tail Amber Ale and Space20, the first beer and sports water made from flown in space additives.

7. Space Ram Soup

Space-bound college students rejoice! The Cup Noodle that sustains your semesters has now been redeveloped and repackaged for spaceflight. First consumed by Soichi Noguchi aboard STS-114 in 2005, Nissin?s trademark stringy ramen noodles were reshaped into pasta balls for easier consumption, and as no boiling water is available aboard the space shuttle, the soup was reformulated to cook in 70 degree water, but it still comes in four flavors: soy, miso, curry and pork broth.

6. Canasnacks

Bite-sized sandwich cookies with maple, cranberry or blueberry cream filling, these nutritional Oreo-like snacks were the first Canadian astronaut food to fly (hence the maple leaf design). Though reportedly enjoyed by Canadian Space Agency astronaut Dave Williams aboard STS-118, the real demand has come from the public, which has reportedly submitted as many as 10,000 requests for the handmade cookies. Officials are looking to license the recipe, so you may yet find Canasnacks on a store shelf near you soon.

5. Spicy Green Beans

Like the shrimp cocktail, astronauts have become attracted to spicy green beans, emphasis on the ?spicy?. But these aren?t just anyone?s well-seasoned legumes; these are chef Emeril Lagasse?s special recipe. One of several celebrity chefs invited by NASA to develop new delicacies for the space station?s pantry, Emeril?s green beans stand out because they weren?t a one-hit wonder. With a few tweaks, the spicy green beans have filled a niche on the astronauts' menus.

4. Coca-Cola and Pepsi

In 1985, the Cola Wars reached new heights as NASA invited both the Coca-Cola Company and Pepsi, Co. to fly experimental dispensers for the ultimate in taste tests. Unfortunately, the crew labeled the experiment a failure due to the zero-g environment and the lack of refrigeration. On the lighter-side, floating 'Pepsi balls' did provide a source of entertainment. Coke later flew again, but with pressurized cups and a dispensing machine.

3. Orange Drink

The powdered orange juice drink made famous during the 1960s Gemini program is still flying today on-board the space shuttle and International Space Station. Though not labeled as Tang brand, the company behind its production, Kraft, also supplies NASA with the mix in a wide array of flavors, from the perennial favorite orange, to grape, to the more exotic orange mango and grapefruit orange.

2. Freeze-Dried Ice Cream

It?s not cold, it?s dry as chalk, but it does melt in your mouth with the odd aftertaste of honest to goodness ice cream. While it?s true that the space shuttle and space station are not equipped with freezer space for tasty frozen treats, nearly all of the freeze dried ice cream sold and consumed goes to space fans on the ground wanting a taste of the astronaut life. 'Nearly all' because according to NASA, freeze-dried ice cream has flown, but only once, and at the specific request of a crewmember.

1. Candy-Coated Chocolates

Your mother told you not to play with your food but combine M&Ms and weightlessness and you?re just inviting astronaut impersonations of Pac-Man. While other sweets do fly, the hard candy shell with chocolate center that 'melts in your mouth, not in your hand' seems perfectly suited for spaceflight.

?I think they say, ?they melt in your mouth and not in the lab,?? Expedition 16 flight engineer Dan Tani said of the chocolate treat this week.

NASA labels the M&Ms as 'candy-coated chocolates' as to not inadvertently advertise any specific brand, but in 1996, Shannon Lucid set the record straight from on-board the Mir space station: 'I guess the only thing that would be nice is to have a few more M&M's.

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