Every little kid wants to be an astronaut, but July's termination of the Space Shuttle Program made that dream a few ounces more unattainable. But at the same time, that termination left NASA with a bunch of stuff that had been into outer space and suddenly looked unlikely to return there. And yesterday, the agency announced its plans to make up for millions of squashed childhood dreams by donating excess space food and insulating tiles to schools around the country.
When most people think of space food, their minds go straight to that powdery freeze-dried neapolitan ice cream available for purchase in the gift shop at the Air and Space Museum. But as it turns out, that's not the main subsistence food for astronauts. Instead, they eat a wide array of foods that have been subject to a host of preservation methods. The main qualification for a dish to get on the menu was a dietitian's approval; astronauts need to carefully monitor their food and vitamin intake while in orbit. NASA says that dishes available to Shuttle passengers included "soups like chicken consomme and cream of mushroom, casseroles like macaroni and cheese and chicken and rice, appetizers like shrimp cocktail, and breakfast foods like scrambled eggs and cereals," among many others.
The food is not being given to schools to eat; it is for educational purposes only. Tiles and foodstuffs are being given to schools at no charge except the cost of shipping, which is $28.03 for food and $23.40 for tiles. Schools who request Shuttle artifacts will be granted their share of NASA on a first-come, first-served basis. If only becoming an astronaut had been that easy!