December 6, 2006 2:53am CST
Japan's space agency plans to cook up Japanese "space cuisine" for hungry astronauts at the international space station, but the country's best-known dish is unlikely to make the menu. JAXA, Japan's space agency, is developing a full menu of Japanese cuisine after astronaut Soichi Noguchi slurped instant noodles in a pouch called "Space Ram" during his Discovery space shuttle mission earlier this year. With help from companies such as Nissin Food Products, JAXA has developed space rice balls, space seaweed soup, and space green tea, said agency official Yoshinori Miyazawa. It is also experimenting with Japanese beef curry, mackerel in miso sauce, and red bean cakes. "So far, nobody has been able to make space sushi," Miyazawa said. "I think shelf life may be a problem." To meet space standards, foods must have a shelf life of at least a year, be nutritionally rich, and be easy to prepare and eat in a zero-gravity environment. Foods that are too runny or grainy are banned because portions might float off and interfere with equipment, Miyazawa said. Astronauts at the international space station currently eat food supplied by Russia or the United States, though "bonus meals" from other countries are sometimes served. JAXA plans to market its culinary creations as "Japanese Space Cuisine," and hopes to supply the space station starting next year.