NASA astronauts will soon be able
to enjoy chili in space, thanks to Soy Creations, an Iowa-based
company, and the NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center at
Soy Creations, a division of Triple "F" Inc., is a corporate
partner of the NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center at Iowa
State. They have spent a year developing soy-based food products
for a space program. Their first completed product is freeze-dried
soy chili. Katherine Carlson, communication specialist at the NASA
Food Technology Commercial Space Center in Ames, said the soy chili
is a breakthrough in technology for the NASA program.
Soy nutrition is important to the program as it contains a great
deal of protein and may be substituted for meat, which must be dehydrated
and thermo-stabilized in order to be used in space, she said. The
soy chili was approved by scientists at the Johnson Space Center
for the astronaut food list, Carlson said. In order to be approved,
food provided for the astronauts must have a shelf life of one year,
be nutritious, palatable and flavorful. "I really enjoy soy
chili," Carlson said. "I couldn't tell that it contained
no meat." Elaine Wolf, commercial product developer for Soy
Creations, agreed. "It tastes just like your mom's chili."
Before the soy chili was approved, Wolf said the only vegetarian
option for astronauts in the Space Program was a tofu dish. The
freeze-dried chili is spicy and palatable when rehydrated, she said,
which is the program's goal for space food. All food is sent into
space in a dehydrated state and then much of it must be hydrated
to eat when water is added by the astronauts, Carlson said. However,
this often leaves the food mushy. Chili does not become mushy, instantly
hydrates itself and is edible, Carlson said. Most space food must
be soaked with water for 10 to 20 minutes before it can be eaten.
"Getting foods to taste good after being rehydrated is of high
priority for NASA," Carlson said.
When an astronaut is in space, there is a fluid shift in their body
because of the lack of gravity. This causes food to taste differently.
Although the astronauts choose their own menu, they often find once
in space their food does not taste the same. Astronauts often resort
to using spices and hot sauce to season their food, Carlson said.
Wolf said soy chili is also available to consumers on Earth. Soy
Creations packages the soy "meat " and spices for their
chili as part of their Premier Harvest line, available at Hy-Vee
stores. Carlson said she hoped the chili will be the first of many
soy-based food products to be accepted for NASA's food list.
Wolf said Soy Creations is already working on a soy taco meat. This
new line of soy products is very important to the NASA space program,
Wolf said. Someday, the program plans to have sustainable agriculture
grown at the space stations on the moon or Mars, she said. There
are 15 different plants that NASA hopes to sustain on the moon,
including the beans used to make soy products. Currently, the only
product grown at the space station on the moon is lettuce, Carlson
said, but as of yet U.S. astronauts are not allowed to eat it. Eventually,
NASA plans to have 90 percent of all food for the astronauts grown
at the station, she said. The NASA Food Technology Commercial Space
Center at Iowa State is working to develop this goal.
United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. http://www.upc-online.org