Chinese astronauts say feasting on plenty of local food on space mission

Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (left) and Chen Dong wave in front of a Chinese national flag before the launch of Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft in Jiuquan, China on Oct 17, 2016.
Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (left) and Chen Dong wave in front of a Chinese national flag before the launch of Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft in Jiuquan, China on Oct 17, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

ABOARD TIANGONG - Chinese astronaut Jing Haipeng, who along with compatriot Chen Dong are on China's longest space mission so far, may be far away from home. But that has not stopped them from being able to enjoy their favourite dishes back home.

In a dispatch for China's state-owned Xinhua news agency, Jing Haipeng shared the variety of dishes he and Chen have been able to feast on while on-board the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft.

The spacecraft successfully docked with China's Tiangong-2 space station on Oct 19. As part of the mission schedule, the astronauts will remain in the space station for 30 days and spend 33 days in space.

Writing in a Nov 4 dispatch - on his 17th day in space - mission commander Jing said that contrary to popular belief that space food generally "lacks variety and tastes bad", the duo had actually been able to have a variety of local dishes.

Jing said for that day, their breakfast consisted of seven types of food, including porridge, coconut bread, quail eggs and pickles. Lunch consisted of eight choices, including mixed fried rice, fried noodles with meat, stewed beef with potato and nori and egg soup. For dinner the pair had the choice of fried noodles with beans, rice noodles with beef, fried shrimp with egg as well as canned fruits.

They were also treated to five kinds of snacks, such as spicy pork, fried beans and dried bean curd.

"That's quite a lot choice, isn't it?" Jing said.

According to Jing, the astronauts eat different kinds of food in different stages of flight.

"When just entering into orbit, we eat something light as it is easy for digestion. Currently, our daily menus repeat every five days," he said, adding that they cover six classes of food with nearly 100 kinds of dishes.

"We are even allowed to be "picky" about what we eat. Within a cycle of five days, we can change the order of dishes in the same class," he added.

Jing said he had been consulted by researchers to plan the menus as he been in space twice before.

"After all those days in space, I think the space food this time is more varied and better than my last two trips. That is to say, Chen Dong and I have brought the food what we like eating, so we don't get bored at all."

Jing shared that the research staff had also taken the effort to prepare food specially from Henan province, where Chen is from, for him to have on board.

He added that the staff also had a special surprise for him on his 50th birthday on Oct 24."The staff surprised us by preparing two canned cheese cakes to celebrate my 50th birthday in space. It was really sweet, even though the cake was just the size of my palm."