TV's 'Top Chefs' Cook Up Ultimate Astronaut Takeout

TV's 'Top Chefs' Cook Up Ultimate Astronaut Takeout
NASA is challenging the cooks of TV's 'Top Chef' to dream up an out-of-this-world meal for astronauts. The winning space space food recipe will launch on a future shuttle mission. (Image credit: NASA)

This story was updated Sept. 2 at 7 a.m. ET.

Itwill be bon app?tit in orbit for some lucky astronauts who will soon savor a space meal of short ribs dreamed up by a contestant on television's "Top Chef."

ASept. 1 episode of the Bravo cable channel reality show featured a special spacefood challenge from NASA for the five remaining "chef'testants." Thewinner, Angelo Sosa, will have his short rib dish prepared by NASA's JohnsonSpace Center in Houston and flown on a future space shuttle mission.

NASAalso invited Sosa, who now advances to the final four of this "TopChef" season's cooking tournament, to come see one of the two remainingshuttle launches blast off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The finalshuttle missions are slated to launch in November of this year and February2011.

Afterhe was announced the winner of the contest, Sosa was ecstatic.

"Myfood is going to be in outer space!" he said.

Spacefood has come a long way since the Apollo era of the 1960s and 1970s. Sosa's short rib dishcompeted against two fish filets, a Moroccan lamb pairing, and a sirloinselected by contestant Kevin Sbraga to remind astronauts of back-home grub. ?[Top 10 SpaceFoods]

Amongthose who tasted the cosmically inspired dishes during the show were formerastronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, and current astronautsLeland Melvin and Sandra Magnus. The 'Top Chef' cooks received the challenge atNASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland during a video message fromastronauts Timothy "T.J. Creamer and Tracy Caldwell Dyson on theInternational Space Station.

Whilechowing down on the competing recipes, 'Top Chef" judges wondered about cutleryin space, and the astronauts agreed on the importance of spoons inweightlessness.

"I still have my spoonfrom Apollo 11," Aldrin said of his July 1969 moon landing mission withNeil Armstrong and Michael Collins.

Magnus,who spent 4 1/2 months on the space station during her recent mission, saidcrunchiness is a "texture we miss in space." Rehydrated food losesits snap, and several of the dishes ? including a sirloin topped with crispyonion rings ? would not come out as nicely in a kitchen above Earth.

Today, the menu for astronauts includes 180 food and beverage items. Theseinclude tomato basil soup, chicken fajitas, shrimp cocktail, scrambled eggs andbeef tips with mushrooms.

Astronautscan also munch on nuts, granola bars and cookies. Beverages come in powderedform and include coffee, tea, apple cider, orange juice and lemonade.

Oneastronaut, veteran spaceflyer Don Pettit, has even invented a zerogravity coffee cup that allows people in space to drink liquids without astraw by using surface tension to keep it from floating away.

Wheneverpossible, NASA tries to provide astronauts with meals that look and taste likethose on Earth, space agency officials said. Astronauts have said that whenthey're in such an unfamiliar environment, food is one of the main things thatremind them of home, they added.

Priorto shopping for and preparing their meal ideas, the "Top Chef" contestantsreceived tips from NASA food scientist Vickie Kloeris. They were restrictedby the same nutritional guidelines that NASAfood scientists follow in the Space Food Systems Laboratory in Houston. The"Top Chef" production crew, accompanied by head judge Tom Colicchioand the five contestants visited Goddard and filmed in the Network IntegrationCenter.

Sheadvised that high-sugar foods, complicated sauces and large food chunks tendnot to do so well during the freeze-drying process that makes foodspace-worthy.

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