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Dosa or dum aloo. What will India’s first astronauts eat?

The Mysore-based Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) is busy working on the menu for India’s first astronauts—vyomanauts —who will embark on a space odyssey in 2015.

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The Mysore-based Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) is busy working on the menu for India’s first astronauts—vyomanauts —who will embark on a space odyssey in 2015.
But there’s a problem. DFRL scientists don’t know whether the menu should be north or south Indian as the vyomanauts have not yet been selected.

“We have not readied the menu yet. It will depend on who the astronauts are. For instance, if he is a south Indian, we will make items to suit his taste buds,” AS Bawa, director, DFRL, said.

It could be lemon rice or dosas if it is a south Indian vyomanaut, or chapati bites or mixed vegetable for a north Indian. Or, it could be both if one is a north Indian and the other a south Indian, as the Rs12,400-crore maiden mission will carry two vyomanauts 300-400 km into space for a week.

DFRL scientists are taking a lot of care to ensure the food for the two vyomanauts is palatable. “Indians like spicy food. Hence, the task is going to be challenging. The food should be palatable for seven days,” a senior scientist working on the mission said.

The scientists are looking at fruit bars, granule bar, mutton or chicken pulav to include in the menu. “We will go for traditional curries, paneer and non-vegetarian stuff -- mutton or chicken pulav,” Bawa said.

The food will be packed into morsels, so that it’s easy for the vyomanauts to eat. It will not be the conventional method of eating in which food is served on a plate. In the zero-gravity environs of a spaceship, packaged ready morsels are more convenient as they can be better controlled from floating around and getting lodged in the control panels of the spacecraft.

 “The food will be frozen and dried so it is light to carry,” Bawa added.

The vyomanauts, however, will have to suck the food through a tube. “The food will have to be consumed directly through the pipe. Or we will widen the tube to a fruit bar size,” Bawa said.
DFRL had also prepared and packed food for Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian to go into space in 1984.

Meanwhile, the Bangalore-based Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Laboratory has been approached by the Indian Space Research Organisation for preparing space suits for the vyomanauts. “We have the technology to prepare the suits and are ready to make them whenever asked,” RB Srivastava, director, life sciences, Defence Research and Development Organisation, said.

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