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Fun Space Experiments for Kids - Unit 2

Posted September 27, 2007 12:25 AM by M&M_aero
Pathfinder Tags: astronauts experiements food space

Eating is an essential activity for every living organism. Here on Earth, we humans can drive to the grocery store, visit a McDonald's drive thru, or open the refrigerator and cupboards to choose the foods we want to eat. We can then turn on the faucet to wash ingredients and cook meals on the stove or grill, or in the microwave – all without fear of our food floating away. Astronauts do not have these same conveniences and choices. So how do they eat and cook in outer space?

Here are three experiments that kids can perform to get a "taste" of life in space. For information about the history (and problems) of eating in space, check out "How to Stop Your Dinner From Floating Away", right here on CR4.

Experiment 1: Rehydration

Rehydration is an essential part of eating in space . If astronauts were to transport foods in their full form, the water and packaging materials would add weight and require more storage space. Water, of course, is limited aboard a spacecraft. Consequently, astronauts are allowed only a certain amount of H2O for rehydrating food items.

For this experiment, you'll need a Ziploc sandwich bag, a straw, a package of instant pudding, powdered coffee creamer, and a syringe. First, put approximately 1/3 of the bag of pudding mix and 1 tablespoon of coffee creamer into the sandwich bag. The creamer makes this concoction sweeter since pudding is made normally with milk instead of water.

Cut a small slit in one side of the sandwich bag, approximately ΒΌ of the way down from the top. Now insert the straw into the slit seal it in place with tape and zip-seal the bag. Give the bag to your junior astronaut and have the child use the syringe to add water through the straw. To mix the water into the powder, the child must grasp the outside of the bag and knead the two ingredients together. Continue to add water through the syringe and straw until the mixture is completely hydrated. Finally, have your junior astronaut eat the pudding through the straw – just like astronauts do.

Experiment 2: Vacuum Sealed

Another major concern for astronauts is the growth of bacteria and mold on their foods. To eliminate this unappetizing problem, all foods must be vacuum-sealed. This also minimizes the amount of packaging materials that must be brought aboard the spacecraft. Remember: There are no dumps in outer space. What goes up must come down.

To prepare lunch for an astronaut, you'll need a vacuum sealer. Because some foods work better than others, you'll also need to plan your menu.

Main Course: Astronauts do not vacuum-seal Wonder bread. Without air, the stuff gets pretty nasty. Fortunately, tortillas stay tasty in space. Cheese sandwiches and hotdogs wrapped in tortillas work the best. For this experiment, wrap either a hotdog or piece of cheese in a tortilla, and then vacuum-seal this main course. Heat the package in a microwave oven for approximately 45 seconds at high-power. Dinner is served!

Drink: Please don't try to vacuum-seal your own drinks. Just imagine the kind of mess that this would make! A good off-the-shelf option is Capri sun pouches. They are about as close to an "astronaut design" as you can get.

Snack: Previously-dried foods such as dried fruit and beef jerky work the best in the vacuum sealer.

Dessert: M&M's are a favorite and colorful choice.

Experiment 3: Full Meal

To make a full, astronaut-like meal, you need a tray like you'd find in a cafeteria or fast food restaurant. To hold your utensils in place, attach several magnets to the tray. Typically, astronauts eat with a metal fork, knife, spoon and scissors. To hold your meal in place, attach strips of Velcro to the tray and your vacuum-sealed food items. Now stick the food items to the tray. Finally, wrap a piece of elastic or large rubber band around the tray. Your junior astronaut can now slide things under the band (such as a napkin) and hold them in place.

Have fun eating a full "astronaut meal" with your kids! But be sure to remind them that any crumbs or spills could be life threatening if they float away and into the equipment.

That's the end of Unit 2. Look for Unit 3 next week, right here on CR4. And if you missed Unit 1, don't despair. It can be found here on CR4, too.

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