Astronauts on Gaganyaan mission to carry biryani, khichdi, pickle
When India’s first crewed spaceflight, Gaganyaan, lifts off next year kicking off a new era of space exploration, the astronauts onboard will carry a selection of special foods developed by a military laboratory after experimenting with ingredients for almost two years, people familiar with the development said.
The menu will offer Indian astronauts – hand-picked fighter pilots from the Indian Air Force who are undergoing training in Russia – a variety of options to suit their palate during the seven-day mission: Chicken biryani, chicken korma, shahi paneer, dal-chawal, aloo paratha, preserved chapatis, dal makhni, khichdi and beans in sauce.
Even the humble mango pickle figures on the menu prepared by Mysuru-based Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) that comes under the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
The DFRL’s Space Food and Logistics wing, which showcased its products at Aero India-2021 held at Yelahanka air base last week, has catered to the sweet tooth too with offerings such as moong dal halwa, sooji halwa, dried apricot and a range of flavoured energy bars, the people said.
“We have focused on nutrient adequacy and wholesomeness. Low fragmentation is equally critical in the zero-gravity environment. The astronauts will eat three meals a day, with the diet adding up to 2,500 calories,” said a senior scientist with the DFRL.
The laboratory has prepared the menu in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) that is conducting the crewed mission to space. “American astronauts carry food that suits their taste. So do the Russians. We Indians like saying ‘it tastes just like home food.’ And home food is what our astronauts will carry,” said a second scientist.
The foods (essentially paste products) carried by Indian astronauts will be packed in 100gm/200 packets. The contents of the food kits for the spaceflight will vary with the individual preferences of the astronauts.
“The final composition of the spaceflight is not known yet but four Indian astronauts are being trained in Russia. The idea is to give them balanced meals that are lightweight, low volume and easy to consume. The packaging aspect is quite technical as liquids can’t be used,” said the first scientist.
The kits carried by the astronauts will include special straws (or what the DFRL calls liquid delivery system) for drinking water and instant coffee/tea, food warmers and waste restraining bags.
The pilots from the IAF are being trained at the Yuri Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Center at Star City near Moscow. They began their training in Russia in February 2020 but some activities at the Russian facility were temporarily suspended last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Indians have made good progress in the training so far and cleared some crucial tests, as previously reported by Hindustan Times.
The training programme for the Indian pilots, who were chosen from among hundreds of applicants, will conclude this year. It focuses on both basic astronaut training and issues specific to the Gaganyaan mission.
The Human Space Flight Centre of ISRO and Russia’s state-run Glavkosmos signed a contract for the training programme in 2019.
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