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      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      On Christmas Day in 1968, the three-man Apollo 8 crew of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders found a surprise in their food locker: a specially packed Christmas dinner wrapped in foil and decorated with red and green ribbons. Something as simple as a “home-cooked meal,” or as close as NASA could get for a spaceflight at the time, greatly improved the crew’s morale and appetite. More importantly, the meal marked a turning point in space food history.
      The prime crew of the Apollo 8 lunar orbit mission pose for a portrait next to the Apollo Mission Simulator at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Left to right, they are James A. Lovell Jr., command module pilot; William A. Anders, lunar module pilot; and Frank Borman, commander.NASA On their way to the Moon, the Apollo 8 crew was not very hungry. Food scientist Malcolm Smith later documented just how little the crew ate. Borman ate the least of the three, eating only 881 calories on day two, which concerned flight surgeon Chuck Berry. Most of the food, Borman later explained, was “unappetizing.” The crew ate few of the compressed, bite-sized items, and when they rehydrated their meals, the food took on the flavor of their wrappings instead of the actual food in the container. “If that doesn’t sound like a rousing endorsement, it isn’t,” he told viewers watching the Apollo 8 crew in space ahead of their surprise meal. As Anders demonstrated to the television audience how the astronauts prepared a meal and ate in space, Borman announced his wish, that folks back on Earth would “have better Christmas dinners” than the one the flight crew would be consuming that day.1
      If that doesn’t sound like a rousing endorsement, it isn’t.
      Frank Borman
      Apollo 8 Astronaut
      Over the 1960s, there were many complaints about the food from astronauts and others working at the Manned Spacecraft Center (now NASA’s Johnson Space Center). After evaluating the food that the Apollo 8 crew would be consuming onboard their upcoming flight, Apollo 9 astronaut Jim McDivitt penciled a note to the food lab about his in-flight preferences. Using the back of the Apollo 8 crew menu, he directed them to decrease the number of compressed bite-sized items “to a bare minimum” and to include more meat and potato items. “I get awfully hungry,” he wrote, “and I’m afraid I’m going to starve to death on that menu.”2
      In 1969, Rita Rapp, a physiologist who led the Apollo Food System team, asked Donald Arabian, head of the Mission Evaluation Room, to evaluate a four-day food supply used for the Apollo missions. Arabian identified himself as someone who “would eat almost anything. … you might say [I am] somewhat of a human garbage can.” But even he found the food lacked the flavor, aroma, appearance, texture, and taste he was accustomed to. At the end of his four-day assessment he concluded that “the pleasures of eating were lost to the point where interest in eating was essentially curtailed.”3
      Food used on the Gemini-Titan IV flight. Packages include beef sandwich cubes, strawberry cereal cubes, dehydrated peaches, and dehydrated beef and gravy. A water gun on the Gemini spacecraft is used to reconstitute the dehydrated food and scissors are used to open the packaging.NASA Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman concurred with Arabian’s assessment of the Apollo food. The one item Borman enjoyed? It was the contents of the Christmas meal wrapped in ribbons: turkey and gravy. The Christmas dinner was so delicious that the crew contacted Houston to inform them of their good fortune. “It appears that we did a great injustice to the food people,” Lovell told capsule communicator (CAPCOM) Mike Collins. “Just after our TV show, Santa Claus brought us a TV dinner each; it was delicious. Turkey and gravy, cranberry sauce, grape punch; [it was] outstanding.” In response, Collins expressed delight in hearing the good news but shared that the flight control team was not as lucky. Instead, they were “eating cold coffee and baloney sandwiches.”4
      The Apollo 8 Christmas menu included dehydrated grape drink, cranberry-applesauce, and coffee, as well as a wetpack containing turkey and gravy.U.S. Natick Soldier Systems Center Photographic Collection The Apollo 8 meal was a “breakthrough.” Until that mission, the food choices for Apollo crews were limited to freeze dried foods that required water to be added before they could be consumed, and ready-to-eat compressed foods formed into cubes. Most space food was highly processed. On this mission NASA introduced the “wetpack”: a thermostabilized package of turkey and gravy that retained its normal water content and could be eaten with a spoon. Astronauts had consumed thermostabilized pureed food on the Project Mercury missions in the early 1960s, but never chunks of meat like turkey. For the Project Gemini and Apollo 7 spaceflights, astronauts used their fingers to pop bite-sized cubes of food into their mouths and zero-G feeder tubes to consume rehydrated food. The inclusion of the wetpack for the Apollo 8 crew was years in the making. The U.S. Army Natick Labs in Massachusetts developed the packaging, and the U.S. Air Force conducted numerous parabolic flights to test eating from the package with a spoon.5
      Smith called the meal a real “morale booster.” He noted several reasons for its appeal: the new packaging allowed the astronauts to see and smell the turkey and gravy; the meat’s texture and flavor were not altered by adding water from the spacecraft or the rehydration process; and finally, the crew did not have to go through the process of adding water, kneading the package, and then waiting to consume their meal. Smith concluded that the Christmas dinner demonstrated “the importance of the methods of presentation and serving of food.” Eating from a spoon instead of the zero-G feeder improved the inflight feeding experience, mimicking the way people eat on Earth: using utensils, not squirting pureed food out of a pouch into their mouths. Using a spoon also simplified eating and meal preparation. NASA added more wetpacks onboard Apollo 9, and the crew experimented eating other foods, including a rehydrated meal item, with the spoon.6
      Malcolm Smith demonstrates eating space food.NASA Food was one of the few creature comforts the crew had on the Apollo 8 flight, and this meal demonstrated the psychological importance of being able to smell, taste, and see the turkey prior to consuming their meal, something that was lacking in the first four days of the flight. Seeing appetizing food triggers hunger and encourages eating. In other words, if food looks and smells good, then it must taste good. Little things like this improvement to the Apollo Food System made a huge difference to the crews who simply wanted some of the same eating experiences in orbit and on the Moon that they enjoyed on Earth.
      Footnotes
      [1] Apollo 8 Mission Commentary, Dec. 25, 1968, p. 543, https://historycollection.jsc.nasa.gov/JSCHistoryPortal/history/mission_trans/AS08_PAO.PDF; Apollo 8 Technical Debriefing, Jan. 2, 1969, 078-15, Apollo Series, University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston, Texas (hereafter UHCL); Malcolm C. Smith to Director of Medical Research and Operations, “Nutrient consumption on Apollo VII and VIII,” Jan. 13, 1969, Rita Rapp Papers, Box 1, UHCL.
      [2] Jim McDivitt food evaluation form, n.d., Box 17, Rapp Papers, UHCL.   
      [3] Donald Arabian to Rapp, “Evaluation of four-day food supply,” May 8, 1969, Box 17, Rapp Papers, UHCL.
      [4] Apollo 8 Mission Commentary, Dec. 25, 1968, p. 545.
      [5] Malcolm Smith, “The Apollo Food Program,” in Aerospace Food Technology, NASA SP-202 (Washington, DC: 1970), pp. 5–8; Whirlpool Corporation, “Space Food Systems: Mercury through Apollo,” Dec. 1970, Box 9, Rapp Papers, UHCL.
      [6] Smith, “The Apollo Food Program,” pp. 7–8; Smith to the Record, “Christmas Dinner for Apollo VIII,” Jan. 10, 1969, Box 1, Rapp Papers, UHCL; Smith et al, “Apollo Food Technology,” in Biomedical Results of Apollo, NASA SP-368 (Washington, DC: NASA, 1975), p. 456.
      About the Author
      Jennifer Ross-Nazzal
      NASA Human Spaceflight HistorianJennifer Ross-Nazzal is the NASA Human Spaceflight Historian. She is the author of Winning the West for Women: The Life of Suffragist Emma Smith DeVoe and Making Space for Women: Stories from Trailblazing Women of NASA's Johnson Space Center.
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      Methane bubbles pop on the surface of an Alaskan lake being studied by scientists with NASA’s Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment. A potent greenhouse gas, methane is released in bubble seeps when microbes consume carbon released from thawing permafrost.NASA/Kate Ramsayer Roughly 2 million hot spots – defined as areas showing an excess of 3,000 parts per million of methane between the aircraft and the ground – were detected across some 11,583 square miles (30,000 square kilometers) of the Arctic landscape. Regionally, the number of hot spot detections in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta were anomalously high in 2018 surveys, but scientists didn’t know what was driving their formation.
      Ice and Fire
      To help fill this gap, Elizabeth Yoseph, an intern at the time with the ABoVE campaign, focused on a methane-active region located in a wet and peaty area of the massive delta. Yoseph and the team used the AVIRIS-NG data to pinpoint hot spots across more than 687 square miles (1,780 square kilometers), then overlaid their findings on historical wildfire maps.
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      Methane emission hot spots were observed from the air using NASA’s AVIRIS-NG instrument across broad regions of the North American Arctic as part of the agency’s Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio “When fire burns into permafrost, there are catastrophic changes to the land surface that are different from a fire burning here in California, for example,” said Clayton Elder, co-author and scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which developed AVIRIS-NG. “It’s changing something that was frozen to thawed, and that has a cascading impact on that ecosystem long after the fire.”
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      Because of the cool marshes, low shrubs, and grasses, tundra wildfires are relatively rare compared to those in other environments, such as evergreen-filled forests. However, by some projections the fire risk in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta could quadruple by the end of the century due to warming conditions and increased lightning storms – the leading cause of tundra fires. Two of the largest tundra fires on record in Alaska occurred in 2022, burning more than 380 square miles (100,000 hectares) of primarily tundra landscapes.
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      The scientists hope to continue exploring methane hot spots occurring throughout Alaska. Ground-based investigation is needed to better understand the links between fire, ice, and greenhouse gas emissions at the doorstep of the Arctic.
      The study was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
      News Media Contacts
      Jane J. Lee / Andrew Wang
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
      818-354-0307 / 626-379-6874
      jane.j.lee@jpl.nasa.gov / andrew.wang@jpl.nasa.gov
      Written by Sally Younger
      2023-159
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