Astronauts crave spicy food in space - here's why
NASA food scientists have the arduous task of keeping space-bound astronauts not only satiated and healthy with fortifying and nutritious meals, but also happy and comforted with foods they actually enjoy eating.
This task gets even more tricky when something unusual happens the minute they get up there: They get all stuffed up.
The lack of gravity causes bodily fluids - which normally pool down at your feet on Earth - to go all over the place in your body in space, including your head.
This is why astronauts sometimes look like cartoon characters when they get up there. Their noggins are literally swollen.
And this swelling impacts their eating experience.
"Your sense of taste is a little compromised because you're a little stuffed up," Astronaut Mike Massimino, now a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University, told Tech Insider at a reception for the opening night of an opera called "The Astronaut's Tale" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music January 28. "So usually spicier foods are more popular."
Imagine taking a sip of coffee without being able to smell the nutty, chocolate aromas from the roast. It would taste like a hot cup of bitter sludge.
Because of this, astronauts have been known to crave Tabasco sauce when they're up there, which makes sense. If you can barely taste anything, you're going to need to really assault your taste buds with intense heat and flavor.
So which food specifically does the trick for Massimino and his crewmates when they're all congested?
"Shrimp cocktail is very popular," Massimino said. "That has a horseradish sauce, it gets people going."