Shuttle Atlantis to Launch Without ISS Chef Special

Shuttle Atlantis to Launch Without ISS Chef Special
Inside the U.S. laboratory, astronaut Jeffrey N. Williams, Expedition 13 flight engineer and NASA science officer, pulls out some food items from among personal supplies for the current inhabitants of the International Space Station. Photo (Image credit: NASA.)

When NASA's shuttle Atlantislaunches toward the InternationalSpace Station Wednesday, its six-astronautcrew 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 andvegetables, but no gourmet meals akin to those designed by celebrity chefEmeril Lagasse and launchedto the ISS aboard Discoveryin July, NASA spokesperson William Jeffs told

Admittedly, the primary mission ofAtlantis' STS-115mission, which is commanded by veteran NASA astronaut Brent Jett, is toresume construction of the ISS and attach two newtrusses and a shiny pair of solar wings that will double the station'scurrent power supply once activated later this year. The mission is setto launch on Sept. 6 at 12:28:46 p.m. EDT (1628:46 GMT).

But the space station'sthree-astronaut crew - Expedition13 commander PavelVinogradov and flight engineers JeffreyWilliams and ThomasReiter - will likely miss the zesty orbital meals dreamed up by Lagasse anddelivered to the ISS during July's STS-121shuttle mission.

"It was so tasty, we absolutelyloved it all," Vinogradov told Lagasse during a space-to-ground phone call lastmonth. "That was a true and wonderful surprise."

Lagasse designed recipes - whichwere prepared and packaged by NASA space food specialists - for mashed potatoeswith bacon, green beans and garlic, rice pudding, mixed fruit and spicy MardiGras jambalaya, the latter of which scored high marks with the Expedition 13crew.

"We have a longing for a little bitspicier food," Reiter told Lagasse. "Our perception of taste is a little bitdecreased."

Lagasse told the ISS crew that hehas been a long-time believer in human spaceflight.

"I have to tell you that ever sinceI 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 hiscooking show "Emeril Live." "I want to say what an absolute honor it is for youto share my food with you."

Williams, NASA's ISS scienceofficer, told Lagasse that food is very important for station astronauts, andnot just because it helps keep spaceflyers alive.

"It's very important for the moraleof the crew," Williams said. "It's going to be very important for futureexpeditions when we leave Earth orbit and go on to Mars."

On Williams' short list of Earthfoods which he misses most are an open cup of coffee - which he can taste morethan the bagged and straw-drunk versions on the ISS - and his wife Anna-Marie'scooking.

"In general, I crave my wife'scooking," Williams told Lagasse. "She's an excellent cook and she makes somegreat salads."

Williams invited Lagasse to join theExpedition 13 crew as their official chef, if - of course - he's ever in theirorbital neighborhood.

 "Now, that woulddefinitely 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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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.