Do Astronauts Really Eat Ice Cream in Space?

February 16, 2016

astronaut ice creamMany people who visited space museums as children enjoyed snacking on astronaut ice cream they bought in gift shops. The freeze-dried dessert feels brittle but melts in your mouth. It typically comes in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and Neapolitan flavors.

The widely-held belief that astronauts snacked on the freeze-dried ice cream during space missions has been debunked. The National Air and Space Museum said it is unlikely that it was actually served on any missions.

Whirlpool (the company that produces household appliances) developed astronaut ice cream as part of a contract with NASA for the Apollo 7 mission in 1968. Some news outlets reported that it was served on the mission, but Walter Cunningham, the only member of the mission who is still alive, said he and his crewmates never ate it. Journalists for Vox went to the National Air and Space Museum storage facility in Washington, DC and did not find any astronaut ice cream.

Cunningham believes astronaut ice cream became famous after the media spread a myth that vanilla ice cream was aboard Apollo 7. He said the crew did not like sweets. Ice cream was not mentioned in any transcripts of the mission.

There is a specific reason why NASA would not want astronauts to eat astronaut ice cream in space. It has a crumbly texture, and crumbs could have floated away and interfered with controls and equipment in zero-gravity conditions. The astronauts also could have gotten it in their eyes and noses. According to Buzz Aldrin, NASA favored bite-size, crumb-free foods and added gelatin to fruit cake so crumbs would not clog the instruments on the ship.

Space technology has advanced, and ships today have regular freezers. That allows astronauts to enjoy the same type of ice cream people eat on Earth, but without sprinkles.

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