Posted 12 January 2004 - 08:06 AM
Earth bound food service is actually quite different. The food service industry is designed to prepare and provide food real time for folks to consume, so there is little or no preservation involved. What we do for space flight is totally different. The food we process and prepare will not be consumed for months, sometimes years, after preparation. Therefore, what we do does not really compare to the food service industry. We compare more closely to the commercial food processing industry where products are processed and preserved in some manner to extend the shelf life of the products. The processes that we use for our flight food systems include such things as freeze-drying, thermostabilization and irradiation. We have no dedicated refrigerators or freezers for our flight food systems, so all our foods must be able to be stored for long time periods at ambient temperatures. The foods that we use on the Shuttle must have at least a nine month shelf life and for the International Space Station we need at least a year. The processing and the packaging of the food work together to determine what the shelf life will be. As far as the type of background required for my job, training in food science is the best background to have for the work that I do. Knowledge of food microbiology, food chemistry, food packaging and other related areas are all important to the work that I do.