Astronauts bust the myth of space ice cream

The widely held belief that this chalky, freeze-dried dessert made it to space isn't true after all, according to the National Air and Space Museum and actual NASA astronauts.

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Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
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The mythical space treat is sold in gifts shops and online.


At one point or another in our childhoods -- or in my case last week -- we've treated ourselves to the space snack known as astronaut ice cream.

This freeze-dried dessert, which usually comes in strawberry, vanilla, chocolate or a Neapolitan mix, feels brittle until it melts in your mouth.

Astronaut ice cream can be found in science museums, novelty shops and online. But according to the National Air and Space Museum, it wasn't necessarily used on any space missions.

When Vox Media asked where space fans could find a real-life sample of astronaut ice cream in the national museum, none could be found.

"I think it's very likely it never flew," the National Air and Space Museum curator Jennifer Levasseur said in a video posted Monday.

This makes one wonder why it's called astronaut ice cream if astronauts never snacked on it in space.

Although astronaut ice cream was originally developed by Whirlpool under contract to NASA for the Apollo missions, any records showing that it actually went into space are scarce on details.

Some news reports claim that the 1968 Apollo 7 mission had vanilla ice cream on board, so Vox contacted Walt Cunningham, the only astronaut on that flight who is still alive.

"We never had any of that," Cunningham said.

The transcripts of the Apollo 7 mission reveal that the astronauts ate chocolate pudding, but there is no mention of ice cream.

"After it came out, I remember thinking, 'Gee, wouldn't it have been nice if we had that,'" Cunningham added.

When you consider how crumbly astronaut ice cream can be, there's no way NASA could have allowed it to be consumed in zero gravity where the bits of freeze-dried ice cream could fly into the controls or create other problems floating inside the ship.

"How could we have something up here that crumbled and crunched?" astronaut Chris Hadfield said in a 2013 video talking about the improbability that any of them would ever eat astronaut ice cream in space.

"It could get everywhere," Hadfield continued. "It would get in my eyes. We'd breathe it. There would be crumbs floating everywhere."

With the advent of actual freezers on NASA ships, astronauts today can now just eat regular ice cream like we do, minus the sprinkles of course.