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Zero-gravity life begins with mooncakes
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-13 05:52

What the two Chinese astronauts eat and how they sleep during their 119-hour, zero-gravity space odyssey has aroused much attention.

Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, who undertook China's second manned space mission yesterday morning, helped themselves to pineapple-filled mooncakes for breakfast, Reuters reported.

Fei Junlong (left), Nie Haisheng pose for a photo before the Shenzhou VI is launched. [Xinhua]

The traditional heavy pastries were to the liking of Fei Junlong, who was said to have a sweet tooth, while his partner, Nie Haisheng, apparently prefers spicier fare.

The Shenzhou VI spacecraft has been packed with a wide range of rations, with 50 varieties of foodstuffs weighing in total more than 40 kilograms.

Chen Bin, head of the Space Nutrition and Foodstuff Research Office at the China Space Centre, said the two astronauts would have three meals every day, with five to six dishes for each meal.

"The menu has balanced nutrition and is designed to their personal tastes," Chen said.

For example, rice will be the major staple food. Each portion of 140 grams packed into a vacuum bag, which is then warmed by a heater.

Other foods include beef cooked with preserved orange peels, beef balls and dehydrated vegetables.

They also have instant coffee, green tea, orange juice and even creamed soup to drink.

Dehydrated, refrigerated fruits such as strawberries, apples, bananas, peaches and Hami melons are also available.

However, it is not easy to eat in space, as everything floats.

A cafeteria-style tray with compartments holds food-filled cans, plastic containers and dishware and is tied to one thigh of the astronaut.

The astronauts drink through straws and eat with spoons, and have to keep their mouths shut!

Uneaten food morsels from containers are sucked up by a vacuum machine.

A sleeping bag, hooked on the wall of the orbiting module, has been arranged to suit earthly habits.

The astronauts will sleep in shifts. Under the microgravity conditions, they may sleep standing, sitting or lying.

When they sleep, they put their arms inside the sleeping bag and tie their hands on their chests, to avoid touching equipment switches accidentally.

The spacecraft is equipped with a Chinese-made space toilet with an excrement-collecting device.

The astronaut can put a flexible plastic tube tightly against the body, and a vacuum pump inside the toilet will collect waste into a container.

No space walk has been planned for this trip, and walking in the capsule is far from relaxing.

(China Daily 10/13/2005 page3)

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