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    Astronaut John W. Young
    NASA Manned Spacecraft Center
    Houston, Texas

    Conference on Food Science at -
    U.S. Army Natick Laboratories, Natick, Massachusetts

    November 20, 1963

    It is a pleasure to be here today to discuss some of our food development problems for space flight.

    As you probably realize, one of the primary objectives of space flight test work is to prove to our satisfaction that a man can live and work effectively in space. Even in these relatively early stages of the space program, we are planning for the time when we will operate on a routine basis on long duration flights in space. In this presentation, reference to space means weightlessness or zero-g effects encountered in orbital missions.

    As we begin the two-man spacecraft project called Gemini, we will experience long duration routine space flight for the first time. It will be our first chance to show that men can eat, sleep and work in space on a day-to-day basis. The groundwork for the Gemini program was established by experiments and tests made in the Mercury program. At NASA we continually remind ourselves of the lessons learned from the Mercury Project to establish a solid basis for future programs. I will review several food problems in Mercury that have directed our thinking and established requirements for both the Gemini and Apollo programs (Apollo is the three man spacecraft with the lunar mission).

    Mercury astronauts faced, as you recall, many unknowns in their first flights. It seems weird to say so now, but some people had doubts that survival was possible under the zero-g conditions of space flight. The mere experiment of eating under weightlessness caused some concern. It was one of the physiological unknowns of space flight.

    Before we had acheived orbital flight we had experienced weightlessness by flying high-speed aircraft over prescribed Keplerian or ballistic trajectories. During these trajectories for approximately 45 seconds the forces of gravity are balanced out and weightless experiments can be performed. This training gives us a feel for some of the problems in weightlessness, but valid conclusions on the long duration effects of weightlessness cannot be drawn from it.

    So, prior to Mercury flights, we, from weightless experiments, knew that liouids would not flow freely nor would loosely packed food stay together. We knew that food and drink would have to be packaged and that it would have to be transferred to the mouth from the container by force. The simplest way to do this operation was the use of malted milk tablets. Squeeze tubes like toothpaste tubes were also used. John Glenn carried food in these squeeze tube containers in the puree or baby food form. This first experiment with eating in space seemed to indicate that there would be no problems. Glenn suggested in his flight report that carrying normal foods would be possible as long as they did not crumble. On Scott Carpenter's flight, man encountered the first warning of a potential problem in space food. Crumbled food floats freely causing a nuisance and a danger if it should drift into vital equipment. Combined with free moisture, crumbs could cause electrical shorts on electronics equipment with possible catastrophic effects unless proper precautions were taken.

    Xylose absorption tests indicated that carbohydrate food was being digested on both Carpenter's and Glenn's flights.

    During Schirra's flight, food tubes were also used. Although he did not experience any real hunger he consumed a tube of peaches and one of beef and vegetables. Therefore, Mercury experiments showed that as long as man can get the food into his mouth, he can eat normally.

    With an eye to future flights we wanted to experiment with freeze dehydrated food. As you know freeze drying removes more than 95% of the water in foods. This food re-hydrated provided a more solid type diet and added variety to the space flight menu. I hasten to add here that variety is not the reason for going to freeze dried food. If we used the bite-size and tube filled foods of Mercury it would require an approximate weight of 3. 6 lb. /man/day (and 300 cubic inches stowage space) to provide 2500 cal. /man/day diet. The same diet using freeze dried foods, we hope to result in a food weight of 1. 3 lb. /man/day and a stowage volume of 100 cu. in. /man/ day. Roughly speaking, on a two week Apollo lunar mission we will save nearly 100 lbs. of weight and 8, 400 cu. in. of stowage space with freeze dried food. To put it bluntly, we don't have 8, 400 extra cu. in. of stowage space inside the Apollo spacecraft. Since it will take roughly 800 to 1000 lbs. of fuel and boosters to carry one pound of anything to the moon and back, weight saving in the food area is vital.

    Cooper reported on his flight in the first evaluation in space of freeze dried food, that difficulties with food containers and water nozzles during his flight prevented him from properly reconstituting the food. Due to these problems he only consumed one-third package of beef pot roast during a 34-hour flight. To correct these difficulties in Gemini and Apollo, the dehydrated food will be packaged in specially devised "zero-g" containers. Water for food re-constitution which incidentally is produced by the fuel cells - combining hydrogen and oxygen to make electricity with water as a by-product (vital though it is), will be delivered to the spacecraft cockpit through specially designed probe nozzles. Food will be re-hydrated by inserting the special probe into a sealed valve and applying the proper amount of water. Probe removal will seal a check valve to prevent leakage. The hydration process is accomplished by squeezing the package from 3 to 5 minutes. A feeding seal in the food container neck is broken and the food container neck inserted into the mouth and the food package is squeezed to force food into the mouth. The feeding seal is resecured leakproof-wise by clamping it shut. A germicide in tablet form will be squeezed in the food package prior to its stowage in the waste container to prevent putrefaction. This package is designed to insure satisfactory re-hydration and prevent leakage. All package openings are designed for ready operation and ease of handling. To supplement the dehydrated food, snack bites packaged in edible coatings can be eaten, wrapper intact, to prevent crumbling. Cooper's main food consumption was these bite-sized cube foods and bite-sized sandwiches. Gordon stated that he was not particularly hungry and ate mainly because it was on the schedule. At only one time during the flight, which you recall was 34 hours, did Cooper experience hunger which he satisfied by eating.

    The main conclusion which can be gained from a review of the Mercury flights is that eating is not the vital part of a space flight mission. We will eat to maintain performance levels for long mission durations.

    You are probably all familiar with the National Academy of Sciences working group report on nutrition and feed problems. It recommends that hi-energy balanced formula diets can be tolerated for periods of up to three weeks in space flight. So a great variety of food may not be necessary. In fact, we are presently planning to repeat the Gemini menu every fourth day. But simple foods must be readily accessible and easily handled in orbital conditions. The National Academy of Science report concludes that a formula diet could provide this result as well as provide a low residue diet. In our survival training exercises we have been frequently told quote, eat anything that doesn't eat you first, unquote. But this is perhaps a good attitude to adapt in regard to a flight diet. Weight restrictions, as I mentioned, will require us to have a necessarily frugal diet, but not necessarily monotonous. I have eaten several proposed freeze dried meals and find them very palatable. In my opinion, the astronaut diet in terms of palatability and variety will fall between the survival ration and the typical noon banquet menu.

    In space we determine when to eat by the workload or the mission plan. If, for example, we want to do a rendezvous with another spacecraft during an earthly dinner time we eat later and we are planning four meals a day in Gemini for the pilots with "night"watches. So we don't feel that when we eat will be a problem.

    In summary, there is a diversity of food products being developed for space flight under contract to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by several industries. It has become a challenge to the industries to keep these products simple, palatable and easy to use in a zero-g environment. Astronauts are not passengers on luxury liners who have to be fed delicacies during the flight. Our major item of concern is the packaging and handling of the f ood. The food must be properly contained to prevent leakage and crumbling. Excessive time and effort to process the food, we have discovered, discourages food intake during the slack periods when the astronaut should be eating. The several industries are now fulfilling our requirements for a light, compact hi-energy well balanced diet. They are also solving the admittedly difficult problems of package design for ease of leak-free handling in zero-g. With this type food, we have every confidence that we will successfully perform on long duration missions. It is even possible, in fact, that some of us may gain weight.

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