The barrier to dining like an astronaut living on the International Space Station astronaut has now been lowered — by about 240 miles.
Lufthansa, Europe's largest airline, has begun serving some of its passengers one of the same menu items that it developed for German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who launched to the space station in June. The space food, now served at 35,000 feet (10,700 meters) in addition to 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the planet, is available to business class passengers on long-haul flights originating in Germany.
"Passengers will have the chance to enjoy one of the menus that Alexander Gerst and his crew will also be receiving on board [the station] as special highlights, chicken ragout with mushrooms," Lufthansa announced in a recent press release. [Space Food Evolution: How Astronaut Chow Has Changed (Photos)]
The astronaut-turned-airline food will be available on flights in July and August.
On orbit, the ragout, along with dishes from Gerst's home region of Swabia in southwestern Germany — including maultaschen (stuffed pasta) and cheese spätzle (egg noodles) with bacon, are considered "bonus" foods, augmenting the daily menus available to the crew. Bonus meals are generally saved for special occasions, as a special treat during the crew's five to six month stays in space.
"We certainly want our astronauts to perform in an optimal manner, so we need to provide them support. One of the supports we provide is food," said Frank de Winne, the head of the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany and a former astronaut who logged almost 200 days in Earth orbit.
For Gerst's current expedition, dubbed "Horizons," some of the bonus foods were developed by the LSG Group, Lufthansa's catering and hospitality division.
LSG's Global Culinary Excellence Team worked with the European Space Agency (ESA) to ensure the menus fulfilled the health and safety requirements of the mission, including keeping the foods low in sodium and able to maintain a shelf life of two years.
"In order to enhance the challenging life of the astronauts, we try to offer them a taste of home," said Jörg Hofmann, director of culinary excellence for LSG. "In developing the bonus food, we needed to think completely out of the box and were able to apply all our knowledge and culinary expertise in a very unique way."
LSG prepared six bonus dishes for the Horizons mission to be consumed by Gerst and his Expedition 56/57 crewmates.
"It was a great compliment and accomplishment for us to receive some excellent feedback from ESA," said Hofmann in a statement. "We look very much forward to seeing the astronauts enjoy our creations in space."
Lufthansa's limited time offer of astronaut food is the latest example of the space station's menu items being available to the public. Beyond the souvenir freeze-dried snacks sold in museum and science center gift shops, authentic cosmonaut cuisine has been sold in vending machines at Moscow's All-Russian Exhibition Center and Turin-based Argotec continues to offer through its website some of the same bonus foods that it developed for Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
See Lufthansa's menu for long-haul flights, including space food, at collectSPACE.
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.