Source AP ©

Japan's space cuisine: rice balls, green tea and noodles

Japanese astronauts in for long-term stays at the International Space Station can look forward to having ramen noodles, rice balls and green tea on their menus, Japan's space agency said Wednesday.

With help from companies such as Nissin Food Products, the agency, JAXA, has come up with 29 dishes intended to provide Japanese spacefarers with familiar food in their "bonus packs," the agency said in a statement.

Space station crew members are given a certain number of bonus packs of their favorite foods to help endure their months in space, where most meals are the equivalent of military rations.

The Japanese dishes - which also include simmered mackerel, Japanese-style curry and various soups - were approved Wednesday, the agency said.

To meet space standards, foods must have a shelf life of at least a year, be nutritionally rich, and be easy to prepare and eat in a zero-gravity environment.

Foods that are too runny or grainy are banned because portions might float off and interfere with equipment, JAXA said.

Astronauts at the ISS currently eat food supplied by Russia or the United States, though bonus packs from other countries are sometimes served.

The companies will be able to market their creations with an official JAXA label that reads "Japanese Space Food," the agency added. The agency plans to start shipping food to NASA next month, with use of the food to start next February.

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