Tortilla in Space

So tortillas were introduced to space since NASA realized that they didn’t leave crumbs to float everywhere like normal bread would. Rodolfo Neri Vela, a payload specialist from Mexico, who flew on the space shuttle in 1985, introduced tortillas to the space food system. Back then, NASA would buy fresh tortillas the day before launch to send on the 8-10 day space shuttle missions. But then they learned how to reduce the water activity when formulating tortillas, which coupled with the reduction of oxygen during packaging would prevent the growth of mold and enable them to last for longer shuttle missions. So somewhere out there in space, someone is eating a tortilla as well.

NASA’s food menu is mostly all made from scratch so it can meet the requirements of the nutrition team and ensure astronauts eat enough fruits and vegetables. The space station is stocked with a standard menu that includes a mix of the more than 200 food and drink options available. This ensures lots of variety for the station crews but not too many of each individual item. Yet there seemed to be someone who truly missed having a tortilla even if it meant it not being fresh off the Comal.

The food sent up to space are packaged into bulk overwrap bags, referred to as BOBs, which are packed into cargo transfer bags for delivery to the space station. Each astronaut also gets to bring nine personalized BOBs for a mission, each containing up to 60 food and drink options so they can include more of their favorites – or choose to send a few specific items for everyone to share on a particular holiday like Thanksgiving. As a result, the crew members often share and swap their food to get more variety. Astronauts also can include any food available at the grocery store as long as it has an 18-month shelf life at room temperature and meets the microbiological requirements. Or just a lot of tortillas in this case.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Yes, the tortilla is one of the most versatile foods on the planet, and now in space. Note these are the flour tortillas and not corn tortillas.

    By the way, if you’ve never had a PB & J burrito, you gotta do it.


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