The restaurant is literally out of this world. The chef is the acknowledged master of molecular gastronomy, the menu has been prepared specially for just one person – and Tim Peake is about to be blasted into culinary heaven for six months.
The British astronaut has had his first taste of dishes such as Nova Tiffin Capsule, Rocket Lolly and the Big Breakfast Launch, made by Heston Blumenthal for Mr Peake to tuck into as he enjoys the views from the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.
And, in an interview with The Independent on Sunday, the 43-year-old former Army major revealed that they more than lived up to expectations.
“They are incredible. I was absolutely blown away,” Mr Peake said, admitting he had never sampled food made by the chef, who is renowned for his precise and scientific approach to cooking.
He was tight-lipped about what exactly the menu involved, saying he wanted it to be “a surprise for when I’m in orbit”, but described how he intends to conduct his own experiment on the famously complex cuisine by comparing its tastes on Earth and in space.
“It’s something I hope to answer,” he said. “I’ve tried to etch in my memory what they tasted like down here, so I’ll be able to do some sort of qualitative comparison when I get into orbit. Astronauts who’ve flown do say that your taste buds change.
“You’re in a much more sterile environment, you’re in air conditioning with artificial lighting, you’re deprived of your senses. Your tongue tends to crave spicy food, so it’ll be interesting to see if it changes.”
The food will be flown out to Mr Peake during his six-month European Space Agency mission at the ISS, which will begin in November when he blasts off from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The mission has been titled Principia, in homage to Sir Isaac Newton’s famous work of physics.
Mr Peake hopes that his time in space will inspire schoolchildren to take up careers in science. All seven dishes draw on ideas selected from a national schools’ competition, which was held last year.
“Rather than just [Heston] producing the meals, we wanted this to be inspired by kids, to get them thinking about nutrition and healthy eating,” he said. “They had to comply with some strict constraints in terms of the number of calories and getting the balance right between vitamins and minerals.”
Mr Peake, who is Britain’s first “official” government-funded astronaut, will be touring schools when he returns to Earth at the end of his mission, and thinks space should feature more heavily in classrooms.
“If I were a science teacher I’d be desperately looking for ways to make science interesting,” he said. “Space just cries out as being an excellent example in so many different areas, whether it’s biology, chemistry or physics. Scientific principles can be explained quite interestingly – forces of gravity are removed so you can do weird things.”
He added that he was a “huge advocate” for space tourism, which will initially allow wealthy individuals to leave the Earth’s atmosphere with a commercial company. “Anything that reduces the cost of access to space and makes it easier is a good thing,” he said.
“I think it’s a natural progression we’re moving towards. A hundred-odd years ago even aviation wasn’t accessible to everybody; now it’s as routine as jumping in a car. Space flight at some point in the future will go the same way. At the moment it’s expensive and a sport for the rich, but it can only be a good thing to start the process.”
He added that he does not expect to attain the celebrity status of Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut whose rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” went viral.
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