According to NASA, John Glenn, the first American to eat in space, squeezed applesauce from a toothpaste tube while aboard Friendship 7 in 1962.
Things have changed a lot in the last 50 years. Space agency food scientists have been at work squeezing in more flavor while draining away extra weight and volume.
And now, with the prospect of extended exploration missions, the Advanced Food Technology Project is pushing the bounds even further—increasing meal options while figuring out how to keep space food stable, safe and nutritious for three to five years.
In honor of their work, here are the products the agency’s scientists and dietitians have been cooking up and hermetically sealing throughout the history of American spaceflight.
Mercury and Gemini food (1961 - 1966):
Apollo food (1968 - 1972):
Skylab food and tray (1973 - 1974):
Shuttle re-hydratables (1981 - 1989):
International Space Station food container:
At work preparing freeze-dried vegetables for spaceflight:
And the results of their work—the menu of items astronauts could choose for NASA’s Expedition 12 to the International Space Station:
Their work’s destination—ISS Expedition Seven science officer Ed Lu in the Zvezda service module using chopsticks to hold a piece of food while a drink packet floats in front of him:
Top Image: Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, space tourist Charles Simonyi (foreground) and NASA astronaut Sunita Williams share a meal in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station.