We’ve all seen it, right? The “freeze-dried” packets of astronaut food sold in museum gift shops or novelty stores. From banana to ice cream flavors, we marvel at the taste and texture of what the astronauts ate. Or did they?
Probably not, no.
That’s the conclusion drawn from an entertaining video by Vox's Phil Edwards. Searching through historic NASA transcripts, they found only one mention of ice cream ever actually being used on a space mission – Apollo 7 in 1968. But astronaut Walt Cunningham, the only surviving member of that crew, said he’d never eaten it.
The ice cream is notorious for being crumbly, something that would make it disastrous for space missions, as crumbs can float around and damage instruments. Thus, it’s pretty unlikely it was ever taken to space. “I think it’s very likely it never flew,” Jennifer Levasseur, museum curator at the National Air and Space Museum, told Vox.
An interview with NASA food scientist Vickie Kloeris back in 2005 suggests that astronaut ice cream was actually produced, at the behest of Apollo astronauts, but it “wasn’t that popular; most of the crew really didn’t like it, so it isn’t used anymore.”
What’s more, while it’s highly unlikely to have flown on historic missions, it’s even more unlikely to be used in the modern day. That’s because astronauts now have real food in space including, yes, actual ice cream. Who wants a crumbly, chalky, bad-tasting alternative?
So, sorry folks. Astronaut ice cream as you know it probably only exists in the gift shop on the International Space Station.
Check out the video from Vox below.