SPACE FOOD AND SEX IN SPACE

SPACE FOOD

According to spacefoundation.org: When the Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, he took along and ate the first meal in space: two servings of pureed meat and one of chocolate sauce - all in the yummy form of paste he squeezed from tubes, just like toothpaste! Today's U.S. space food almost exclusively uses the same kind of packaging used for the military's Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) kits, or the room-temperature tuna pouches you can buy in a grocery store. Dehydrated foods are still used, as are foods that are thermostabilized or irradiated and can be served right out of the package - just heat and eat. Dozens of possible menu items range from meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy to coconut cream pie. Today, anything that can be kept at room temperature can be eaten onboard a spacecraft, including pasta, fruit and other popular foods from home. [Source:spacefoundation.org /=\]

According to AFP: “Astronauts once complained of going hungry after being forced to suck food paste out of small aluminum tubes. But advances in technology, and the growing number of countries sending their citizens into space, have enriched space cuisine with new flavors. Today "we can choose the food that we want," Sergei Volkov, captain on a Soyuz mission, said. "The specialists try and make it as close to real food as possible." Every country that travels into space brings along the food its citizens enjoy. Russian foods are preserved the same way as U.S. foods, but are packaged differently. [Source: AFP, April 11, 2008]

“A cabinet at a space museum near the Russian-managed Baikonur launch pad, displays space food from another, blander era. Aluminum tubes, tin cans and clear plastic bags with powders inside are marked with peeling labels reading "Cabbage soup" and "Russian mustard." Tatyana Gavruchenko, space food specialist at the Birulevsky research institute outside Moscow, insists the contents are actually delicious and that only the Russians have food tailor-made depending on the astronaut's tastes. The institute produces around 200 food items, including traditional Russian black bread, a Central Asian rice dish called plov and cheese with nuts.” [Ibid]

Classifications of Space Food: 1) Beverages (dehydrated of course); 2) Fresh Foods (food with a two-day shelf life); 3) Irradiated Meat (to keep it from spoiling); 4) Intermediate Moisture (foods that won't go bad as quickly as fresh foods); 5) Natural Form (nuts, cookies, granola bars, etc.); 6) Re-hydratable Foods (food that can be reconstituted with water); 7) Thermostabilized (prepared with heat to kill off possible spoiling agents.

Eating in Space

Tatyana Shramchenko wrote in the Russian & Indian Report: “The cosmonauts eat four times a day: Three main meals and an additional one after intensive training or complex experiments. A daily ration for one person consists of 3,000-3,100 calories. Doctors and biologists determine how many proteins, fats and carbohydrates, as well as macro and microelements, should go into each portion. They also check the products to see if they contain pesticides, salts from heavy metals and other harmful substances. Before appearing on the spacecraft's menu the products are tasted by the cosmonauts and are then judged according to a nine-point system: they are accepted only with a score of six or above. [Source: Tatyana Shramchenko, Russian & Indian Report, April 13, 2015 \~\]

“Each country supplies its cosmonauts with its own food: Russian food is given to Russian cosmonauts, American food to American cosmonauts. However, if the Russian cosmonauts wish, they can order products from the American ration, and vice versa. "The Americans love our first courses – borsch, rassolnik, kharcho – as well as our cottage cheese, canned food and caviar," says Viktor Dobrovolsky, Director of the Research Institute of the Food Concentrate Industry and Special Food Technology, as well as Chief Designer of Space Food. The sense of taste can change in conditions of zero gravity. It is difficult to predict how the perception of taste will change in an individual. For some people, sweet food may no longer taste sweet or they may not even taste salt. Science still does not know why this happens. \~\

“The cosmonauts also use the package as a dish. With the help of a special tube, they pour a certain amount of hot and cold water into the package in order to give it its original form. Then they knead the package with their hands, wait 7-10 minutes for the food to reconstitute itself, cut off the edge of the package with scissors and start eating. The used package is then pressed and removed from the space station by a cargo spacecraft. \~\

“Interesting facts: 1) Shipping 1 kilogram of food to the ISS costs about $10,000; 2) The cosmonauts have a reserve stock of food for 40 days; 3) One of the products that is most popular and frequently ordered among cosmonauts is cottage cheese with nuts; 4) "Earthly" food such as cookies, jams, fruit bars and candy can also be brought onto the ISS. These products do not go through special processing, but are placed in airtight packages.” \~\

Russian Space Food

According to spacefoundation.org: The Russian space program has about 100 different food items - with some definite cultural differences. In the U.S., we might eat eggs and bacon for breakfast, whereas the Russians traditionally like fish products for breakfast, such as pickled or spiced perch. Other popular Russian space foods include a variety of soups, lamb with vegetables, sturgeon, borsch, goulash, curds and nuts. [Source:spacefoundation.org /=\]

Tatyana Shramchenko wrote in the Russian & Indian Report: “The food is very fine and dry, like dried fruit... The cosmonaut's ration includes canned food: crab, salmon, sturgeon, all in aluminum cans. Black caviar has also been served in space... Before being sent, it goes through thermal processing, after which it can stay in space for up to half"From the 60s to the middle of the 80s space food was packaged in tubes," says Dobrovolsky. "Nine products, including soups and juice, were placed in tubes for the first person in space, Yuri Gagarin. He was the first to try food in tubes." [Source: Tatyana Shramchenko, Russian & Indian Report, April 13, 2015 \~\]

In February 2105, “at the VDNKh general purpose trade show in Moscow, an experimental machine was set up to sell space food in tubes. A tube of borsch, marinated lamb or pork with vegetables cost 300 rubles ($5.75). There were 12 types of products. In the next year to year and a half there will be about 200 such machines set up throughout the city. \~\

“For New Year's Eve the Biryulevsky factory prepares holiday packages based on the wish lists that the cosmonauts send in advance. They usually ask for traditional holiday products, such as salted cucumbers and tangerines. Alcohol is strictly forbidden in space, and is the only restriction. "There is nothing that is not prepared for cosmonauts," concludes Dobrovolsky. "There are few of them, so everything must be done to please them."” \~\

Making Russian Space Food

Reporting from Biryulevsky experimental factory, outside Moscow, the only facility in Russia that specializes in the production of food for cosmonauts, Tatyana Shramchenko wrote in the Russian & Indian Report: “Every stage of the process – from the preparation of the food to the packaging – takes place behind closed doors. A look from the corridor through the windows in the walls reveals women in white robes putting spaghetti and mushrooms into transparent packages with unusual forms. [Source: Tatyana Shramchenko, Russian & Indian Report, April 13, 2015 \~\]

“Since the second half of the 1980s food has been sublimated and dehydrated, which has helped to reduce its volume and mass, explains Dobrovolsky. Sublimation is carried out with the help of special apparatus. First the products are frozen at 70 degrees below zero. Then they are dried in a vacuum and packed. In the end what you see are small transparent packages with miniature food portions. Using this method, 97 percent of the vital nutrients are preserved. Moreover, the addition of flavor enhancers, dyes and other artificial additives to the food is forbidden. \~\

“All the raw material used in the space food industry is exclusively Russian: The caviar is supplied by the Volgograd Region, where fish is reared in ponds; the sturgeon comes from Astrakhan; the crab from the Far East; while the bread and cheese is produced in Moscow factories. Each spacecraft going to the ISS brings fresh fruit and vegetables: lemons, tomatoes, onions and garlic. Before being sent, the products are treated with a secret substance, the likes of which, according to Dobrovolsky, cannot be found anywhere else in the world. After such treatment the fresh fruit and vegetables can remain on the ISS for up to 40 days without changing form.” \~\

Asian Space Food

In 2008, AFP reported: “When she docks with the International Space Station next, South Korea's first astronaut will bring a spicy Asian food menu that puts earlier space fare to shame. Cinnamon tea, noodles and South Korea's beloved pickle dish, kimchi – all developed by a Korean institute to be bacteria-free – are among the 10 menu items she will be eating and drinking during her 12-day mission. Bringing ethnic cuisine to the final frontier, Yi even plans to hold a spicy South Korean party for her space station colleagues. [Source: AFP, April 11, 2008]

“With Asia's economic giants striving to catch up with the more established space programs of Russia and the United States, the new taste in space food is increasingly Asian. Malaysia's first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, celebrated the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2007 by offering the ISS crew an array of Malaysian specialties, including mangoes and Malaysian-style satay. "We really liked the Malaysian food. My favorite was dried mango," U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson said during a link-up with mission control. Muszaphar said ahead of the launch that the food was milder than usual: "We've made sure it's not very spicy so the Russians can eat it very well."” [Ibid]

When the first Chinese astronaut, Yang Liwei, flew into space in 2003, he brought with him Chinese herbal tea, yuxiang shredded pork with garlic and marinated Kung Pao chicken. Japan sends sushi, ramen, yokan and rice with ume for its astronauts. [Source:spacefoundation.org /=\]

Sex in Space

As far as anyone knows no one has had sex in space. But with NASA planning long-term missions for lunar settlements with goals to explore and colonize space, the topic of sex in space taken a respected place in life sciences. Scientist Stephen Hawking publicly concluded in 2006 that possibly human survival itself will depend on successfully contending with the extreme environments of space. Numerous physiological changes have been noted during spaceflight, many of which may affect sex and procreation. Such effects would be a result of factors including gravity changes, radiation, noise, vibration, isolation, disrupted circadian rhythms, stress, or a combination of these factors. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Lyubov Serova, a specialist with the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP) in the field of procreation in the conditions of spaceflight, says "After a period of adaptation for weightlessness, people will not need any special devices, like elastic belts or inflatable tubes to have sex in space," and "We study the impact of weightlessness on the reproductive function of male and female bodies by using mammals as test subjects, particularly rats." The overall conclusion is that sex in space is not a physical problem, and that individuals motivated enough to embark on space flight wouldn't be distracted by the need for sex. +

The 2suit (alternately 2-Suit or twosuit) is a garment designed to facilitate effortless intimacy in the weightless environments such as outer space, or on planets with low gravity. The flight garment, invented by American novelist Vanna Bonta, was one of the subjects of Sex in Space, a 2008 History Channel television documentary about the biological and emotional implications of human migration and reproduction beyond Earth. The 2suit sparked international discussions in news and political debates as a metaphor for human colonization of space. +

In his 1974 autobiography “Carrying the Fire”, Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins wrote: "Imagine a spacecraft of the future, with a crew of a thousand ladies, off for Alpha Centauri, with 2,000 breasts bobbing beautifully and quivering delightfully in response to every weightless movement ... and I am the commander of the craft, and it is Saturday morning and time for inspection, naturally". Time magazine publshed this passage and followed it up by running a letter from one Sharon Smith, who agreed that the presence of breasts "bobbing weightlessly" would render spacemen unable to do their jobs and added that the space program must safeguard itself by the painful but necessary step of excluding men. +

On this issue, Arthur C. Clarke wrote in his novel Rendezvous with Rama (1973): "Some women, Commander Norton had decided long ago, should not be allowed aboard ship; weightlessness did things to their breasts that were too damn distracting. It was bad enough when they were motionless; but when they started to move, and sympathetic vibrations set in, it was more than any warm-blooded male should be asked to take. He was quite sure that at least one serious space accident had been caused by acute crew distraction, after the transit of a well upholstered lady officer through the control cabin." +

Obstacles to Having Sex in Space

The idea of human sexual activity in the weightlessness or extreme environments of outer space, or sex in space, presents difficulties for the performance of most sexual activities due to Newton's Third Law. According to the law, if the couple remain attached, their movements will counter each other. Consequently, their actions will not change their velocity unless they are affected by another, unattached, object. Some difficulty could occur due to drifting into other objects. If the couple have a combined velocity relative to other objects, collisions could occur. There have been suggestions that conception and pregnancy in off-Earth environments could be an issue. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The primary issue to be considered in off-Earth reproduction is the lack of gravitational acceleration. Life on Earth, and thus the reproductive and ontogenetic processes of all extant species and their ancestors, evolved under the constant influence of the Earth's 1g gravitational field. It is imperative to study how space environment affects critical phases of mammalian reproduction and development as well as events surrounding fertilization, embryogenesis, pregnancy, birth, postnatal maturation, and parental care. Gravity affects all aspects of vertebrate development, including cell structure and function, organ system development, and even behavior. As gravity regulates mammalian gene expression, there are significant implications for successful procreation in an extraterrestrial environment.

Studies conducted on reproduction of mammals in microgravity include experiments with rats. Although the fetus developed properly once exposed to normal gravity, the rats that were raised in microgravity lacked the ability to right themselves. Another study examined mouse embryo fertilization in microgravity. Although both groups resulted in healthy mice once implanted at normal gravity, the authors noted that the fertilization rate was lower for the embryos fertilized in microgravity than for those in normal gravity. Currently no mice or rats have developed while in microgravity throughout the entire developmental cycle.

The psychosocial implications of in-flight sex and reproduction are at least as problematic as the related physiological challenges. For the foreseeable future, space crews will be relatively small in number. If pairing off occurs within the crew, it can have ramifications on the crew's working relationships, and therefore, on mission success and crew operations. Behavioral health, close proximity, compatibility and coupling will all be factors determining selection of crews for long term and off-planet missions.

Sex in Space Proposals and Attempts

In February 2013, Dennis Tito's Inspiration Mars Foundation announced that they were going to send a two-person crew – a man and a woman – to a 501 days free-return flyby mission to Mars and back.[citation needed] Jane Poynter stressed the importance of the pre-existing stable emotional bond between the members of the couple. She cited her own experience as being a Biosphere 2 crew member together with her husband Taber MacCallum, who is the chief technology officer of Inspiration Mars. [Source: Wikipedia +]

In June 2015, Pornhub announced its plans to make the first pornographic film in space. It launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the effort, dubbed Sexploration, with the goal of raising $3.4 million in 60 days. The campaign only received pledges for $236 086. If funded, the film would have been slated for a 2016 release, following six months of training for the two performers and six-person crew. Though it claimed to be in talks with multiple private spaceflight carriers, the company declined to name names "for fear that that would risk unnecessary fallout" from the carriers. A Space.com article about the campaign mentioned that in 2008, Virgin Galactic received and rejected a $1 million offer from an undisclosed party to shoot a sex film on board SpaceShipTwo. +

Among films that include space-sex themes are “Moonraker,” “Moving Violations,” “Supernova” and “Cube 2: Hypercube.” In the novelization of Alien, Parker tells Brett about an episode of zero-G sex that went wrong. The issue of sex in space also appears in science fiction by Isaac Asimov who, in 1973, conjectured what sex would be like in the weightless environment of space. He addressed some of the benefits of engaging in sex in an environment of microgravity. "Sex in Space: The Video" uses cheating astronauts to describe techniques humans might use to copulate in space without special apparatus. +

The difficulties microgravity poses for human intimacy were discussed in an anonymous fictional NASA Document 12-571-3570 in 1989, where the use of an elastic belt and an inflatable tunnel were proposed as solutions to these problems. A mission patch and other documents were determined to be hoaxes. +

The adult entertainment production company Private Media Group has filmed a movie called The Uranus Experiment: Part Two where the zero-gravity intercourse scene was accomplished by flying an airplane to an altitude of 11,000 feet (3350 meters) and then doing a steep dive. The filming process was particularly difficult from a technical and logistical standpoint. Budget constraints allowed only for one 20-second shot, featuring the actors Sylvia Saint and Nick Lang. +

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2016

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