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Home >> Sci-Edu
UPDATED: 15:06, October 13, 2005
Food security ensured for China's astronauts in space
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China has taken strict measures to ensure food security for the two astronauts now orbiting the Earth aboard the nation's second manned spacecraft Shenzhou-6.

According to Chen Bin, head of the Space Foodstuff and Nutrition Research Office under the China Space Center, food security has always been on top of the office's work agenda.

To ensure absolute security of foodstuff for astronauts, the office carries out strict examination in different links of food provision, including the selection of raw materials and food processing.

Chen said that all raw materials for astronautic foodstuff are those qualified as "green food" which are safe, nutritious and harmless. Such materials are least affected by industrial wastes and sewage and pesticide residue. Producers of astronautic foodstuff have screened out a handful of prestigious raw material suppliers across the nation, Chen added.

Astronautic foodstuff should not contain antiseptics and not be refrigerated but at the same time, should have a shelf life of at least six months. More, no sterilization is feasible in traveling spacecraft. Under these circumstances, Chen's office has worked out a set of strict technique criteria in food processing, which have been examined and approved by authoritative specialists and are being implemented rigidly.

Chen noted astronautic food processing facility is located inside the "Aerospace Town" in the northwestern suburbs of Beijing. There are 9 people working at the facility, who have physical exams twice every year. Before they enter the food processing workshop, each of the 9 workers is required to have a shower, go through sterilization procedure and dress in anti-static-electricity work suit, Chen said.

Finally, strict checkups should be guaranteed on sanitation related to the purchase of raw materials, workshop environment and processing equipment, product transport and preservation, Chen stressed.

Chen also told Xinhua what the two Chinese astronauts, Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, eat in space.

Before the Shenzhou-6 was launched, Chen said, two space medical specialists had prescribed a detailed recipe for the two astronauts, including 50-odd varieties of foodstuff. Fei and Nie have three meals every day, with balanced nutrition and adaptation to their respective tastes. Foodstuff prepared for them total more than 40 kg, and each meal has 5 to 6 dishes.

Chen said the foodstuff can be classified into staple food and nonstaple food. Rice is the major staple food, with 140 grams of rice packed into a vacuum bag to be warmed by a heater. Non-staple foods include beef cooked with preserved orange peels, beef and cuttle balls and dehydrated vegetables such as rape hearts cooked with mushrooms.

The astronauts have instant coffee, green tea, orange juice and even creamy soup to drink. Dehydrated, refrigerated fruits provided for them include strawberry, apple, banana, peach and Hami melon.

Source: Xinhua

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