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Lab to Startup

Jun 20, 2023

Vickie Kloeris is a food scientist with an out of this world career. She worked at NASA in space food systems for 34 years. She served as the NASA manager of the Shuttle first and then the International Space Station food systems. She and her teams worked through the complex challenges of creating tasty, nutritious, long-lasting, easy-to-prepare meals that support the dietary and psychological needs of astronauts living on the space station. Vickie has worked with 100s of astronauts to plan their favorite meals and holiday specialty meals for space travel.

We talk about the history of feeding our astronauts; working with the US military; evolution of food systems at NASA to feed our astronauts; depending on the Russian space agency in the initial days and also working with other space agencies. Vickie shared the challenges for the future manned mission to Mars; and how food science and technology has been at the core of so many food preparation and packaging technologies we take for granted. We also talk about how we might be able to use these technologies to address hunger and reduce food wastage.

- Only 16 of the 105 space flights had flown by the time Vickie camke to work for NASA
- Food sessions for shuttle crew members: 100% personal menus
- Commercial off the shelf items (COTS)
- MRE: Meals ready to eat made by army contractors (high salt and fat content) bad for astronauts in microgravity
- Changes for the space station Freedom
- Challenges with refrigeration: Freezers for food or science
- Moving away from canned food
- Academia, industry and US military came up with a retort pouch
- "It's not gourmet food but pretty good"
- Commercially sterile food
- Testing the food for the bad bacteria like E.Coli, Salmonella, etc.
- Downside of freeze dried food
- Challenges for the mission to Mars
- Standardized food menu
- Challenges packing beverages
- Taking tortillas to space: challenges with bread
-  Reflections on collaboration with Mir space station
- No insights into Chinese systems
- Using this technology to feed the poor and prevent food wastage
- A lot of people don't even know what food scientists do
- Vickie Kloeris's book: Space Bites: Reflections of a NASA food scientist