Throughout most of the 20th century, it was no secret that dreams of space travel captured the hearts and imaginations of just about every tyke in existence. As the 60s arrived and astronauts started venturing out into this unexplored territory, one particular area of interest was the food that the astronauts took with them. And realizing some serious marketing potential here, numerous manufactures decided to give young consumers a taste of what these brave explorers were munching in their zero gravity environment.
The first product that caught the public eye was an orange flavored powder called Tang. Surprisingly perhaps, it wasn’t invented for use in space travel, but simply as a breakfast drink. Sales weren’t too spiffy, however, until the product happened to be included on the Gemini flights. And as soon as kids learned that the astronauts were drinking this stuff in space, sales (pardon the pun) skyrocketed.
In the late 60s, with space exploration becoming commonplace, Pillsbury decided to jump on the astronaut food bandwagon and introduce Space Food Sticks, which consisted of little slabs of protein, carbs and fat, in such pleasing flavors as caramel, chocolate and peanut butter. Presented as a nutritionally-balanced snack, they became quite popular with the younger generations.
Over the years, other products were introduced, consisting of freeze-dried dehydrated entrees. While certainly intriguing, most kids quickly learned that just because astronauts ate it, didn’t mean that it necessarily tasted good. One exception was freeze-dried ice cream. With a Styrofoam like consistency that instantly melted in your mouth, and available in chocolate, vanilla or strawberry, these sweet treats became popular, as much for their novelty as their flavor.
Much of what was considered astronaut food is now available in the camping supplies section of the local sporting goods store, due to the fact that it is lightweight, only requires water to prepare, and is virtually non-spoilable. Of course, “camping food” doesn’t sound anywhere near as intriguing as “space food,” and with interest in the space program nowhere near what it was during the heyday of the 60s, the days of kids begging for a meal of freeze dried powdered food is probably behind us for the foreseeable future.
Did you ever beg your parents to buy you food “just like the astronauts ate”? Did each glass of Tang make you feel like Neil Armstrong? Share your memories of this futuristic food with us in our comments section as we celebrate these moisture-free meals at Retroland.