CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- AstronautsJohn Young and Robert Crippen will be somewhere over Africa when they sit down to a dinner of shrimp cocktail and beefsteak during their eighth orbit in the space shuttle Columbia.
Drawn up by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the space shuttle menu is chock full of American favorites like corn flakes, scrambled eggs, corned beef and vanilla pudding to please astronaut palates.
'If you put them on a bell curve, I think you'd find their tastes are pretty much like John Q. Public,' says Rita Rapp, a physiologist at Johnson Space Center in Houston who has planned the space shot meals since the Apollo days.
The Columbia's larder will carry about 20 pounds of food for the 54-hour maiden journey, most of it the freeze-dried, canned and dehydrated kinds that campers and backpackers carry.
But the bread, peanuts, almonds and cookies will be the natural variety, and the pantry will also be well stocked with dried fruits and drinks including instant coffee, tea and powdered mixes for milk, lemonade and other fruit drinks.
Ms. Rapp said the standard shuttle menu was drawn up with the help of astronaut trainees in Houston who sampled everything from turkey tetrazzini to chocolate pudding like college sophomores in a cafeteria food survey.
'The crews have tried the food four or five times during some of the (flight) simulations,' Ms. Rapp said. 'They seemed to fairly well pleased with it.'
At first, the astronauts faced the not-so appetizing prospect of eating everything -- dinner included -- cold or at room temperature since the shuttle galley won't be equipped with hot water until at least the fifth flight.
But engineers designed a food warmer to insure that Crippen and Young will be able to heat their sausage and eggs for breakfast, hot dogs for lunch and beef with barbecue sauce for dinner, just like they do at home.
'We provide them with about 3,000 calories a day,' said Ms. Rapp. 'One of the things that was determined in Skylab was they need about the same caloric intake they need on the ground.'
Unlike previous space flights where astronauts picked their own meals, space shuttle crews will eat from a standard menu that changes everyday. Ms. Rapp said the standard menu is the result of plans calling for frequent space shuttle flights, making it difficult to accommodate individulal tastes.
Still, astronauts will be able to nibble during the day and raid the food locker at night, making sandwiches whenever hunger strikes.
'They can put on all the mayonnaise, mustard or taco sauce they want,' she said. 'We want them to do their own thing, if they are so inclined.'