Lufthansa adds astronaut food to its airline passenger menu
The barrier to dining like an astronaut living on the International Space Station astronaut has now been lowered — by about 240 miles.
Lufthansa, Europe's largest airline, has begun serving some of its passengers one of the same menu items that it developed for German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who launched to the space station in June. The space food, now served at 35,000 feet (10,700 meters) in addition to 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the planet, is available to business class passengers on long-haul flights originating in Germany.
"Passengers will have the chance to enjoy one of the menus that Alexander Gerst and his crew will also be receiving on board [the station] as special highlights, chicken ragout with mushrooms," Lufthansa announced in a recent press release.
The astronaut-turned-airline food will be available on flights in July and August.
On orbit, the ragout, along with dishes from Gerst's home region of Swabia in southwestern Germany — including maultaschen (stuffed pasta) and cheese spätzle (egg noodles) with bacon, are considered "bonus" foods, augmenting the daily menus available to the crew. Bonus meals are generally saved for special occasions, as a special treat during the crew's five to six month stays in space.
"We certainly want our astronauts to perform in an optimal manner, so we need to provide them support. One of the supports we provide is food," said Frank de Winne, the head of the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany and a former astronaut who logged almost 200 days in Earth orbit.
For Gerst's current expedition, dubbed "Horizons," some of the bonus foods were developed by the LSG Group, Lufthansa's catering and hospitality division.
LSG's Global Culinary Excellence Team worked with the European Space Agency (ESA) to ensure the menus fulfilled the health and safety requirements of the mission, including keeping the foods low in sodium and able to maintain a shelf life of two years.
"In order to enhance the challenging life of the astronauts, we try to offer them a taste of home," said Jörg Hofmann, director of culinary excellence for LSG. "In developing the bonus food, we needed to think completely out of the box and were able to apply all our knowledge and culinary expertise in a very unique way."
LSG prepared six bonus dishes for the Horizons mission to be consumed by Gerst and his Expedition 56/57 crewmates.
"It was a great compliment and accomplishment for us to receive some excellent feedback from ESA," said Hofmann in a statement. "We look very much forward to seeing the astronauts enjoy our creations in space."
Lufthansa's limited time offer of astronaut food is the latest example of the space station's menu items being available to the public. Beyond the souvenir freeze-dried snacks sold in museum and science center gift shops, authentic cosmonaut cuisine has been sold in vending machines at Moscow's All-Russian Exhibition Center and Turin-based Argotec continues to offer through its website some of the same bonus foods that it developed for Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
California burning. These fires are frightening to watch, even from space. Here's a shout-out from space to all firefighters on this planet, my former colleagues. Stay safe my friends!
Astronauts tackle air leak on International Space Station
Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are having to deal with an air leak from a possible collision.
It has been traced to a small hole in a capsule that was used to deliver a new crew to the laboratory 400km (250 miles) above the Earth in June.
It is thought the damage was caused by the impact of a high-speed rocky fragment flying through space.
Mission controllers in Houston, Texas, and Russia's capital, Moscow, say the six-strong crew are in no danger.
Impacts from tiny meteoroids are a permanent threat to the orbiting platform and it was built to withstand the constant bombardment from the dusty fragments that whizz about above the Earth.
Mission controllers were first alerted to the issue by air pressure sensors on board the station.
The astronauts were asleep at the time, but when they rose for their day's work on Wednesday they were instructed to search for the leak.
They found it in the Russian Soyuz vehicle used to bring three crewmen to the station on 8 June, among them Europe's Alexander Gerst, who is set to take command of the outpost.
"Overnight and in the morning there was an abnormal situation - a pressure drop, an oxygen leak at the station," chief of the federal space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
"A micro-fracture was found; most likely it is damage from the outside. The design engineers believe it is the result of a micrometeorite," he said.
Germany's Gerst confirmed the presence of the hole by running his finger over it.
An immediate fix was implemented using a sealant and tape to cover the hole, which is said to measure a couple of millimetres in diameter.
The astronauts are now working with engineers on the ground to assess whether a more robust repair is needed.
Gerst, along with US astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev, are due to use the same Soyuz vehicle to return to Earth at the end of the year.
Fortunately, the puncture is in the craft's orbital module - the segment that is dumped before the Soyuz' crew capsule enters the atmosphere .