Chinese astronauts enjoy wide-ranging menu choices while in orbit

Chinese astronauts (from left) Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming saluting as they speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the core module Tianhe on June 23, 2021.
Chinese astronauts (from left) Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming saluting as they speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the core module Tianhe on June 23, 2021.PHOTO: AFP/CCTV

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - They may be far away from Earth but the three Chinese astronauts now in space still get to enjoy familiar tastes from home.

The astronauts on board the core module of China's space station have a wide-ranging menu specifically designed for them during their three-month space journey, according to project leaders.

Mr Ji Qiming, assistant director of the China Manned Space Agency, told China Daily on Tuesday (June 22) that there are more than 120 kinds of food and beverages inside the core module, named Tianhe, or Harmony of Heavens.

These carefully selected food and beverages are nutritionally balanced, taste good and can be kept for a long time.

Mr Ji noted that the dining area of Tianhe has a microwave oven, a refrigerator and foldable tables.

Ms Huang Weifen, chief trainer of Chinese astronauts, said the food and beverages have been divided into weekly breakfast, lunch and supper menus. She added that the menus were drawn up based on personal preferences gathered through a survey before the astronauts set out on their mission.

Sources with knowledge of the survey said that astronauts in the Shenzhou-12 mission and crews for the next three space flights were invited to taste hundreds of specially prepared food and beverages and then score them.

Specialists in charge of astronauts' meals used the survey results to improve the menus.

According to the survey, most Chinese astronauts have a preference for Sichuan-style spicy food. In addition, spicy sauces are always the first to be used up, compared with sweet-and-sour sauces, the sources said.

On Monday, the three astronauts on board Tianhe - Major-General Nie Haisheng as the mission commander, Major-General Liu Boming and Senior Colonel Tang Hongbo - had congee with sweet-scented osmanthus, coconut bread, quail egg and soy preserved turnip for their breakfast.

For lunch, there were stewed pork chops, vegetable beef soup, traditional Chinese rice pudding, fried potatoes and hot peppers as well as stir-fried rice with meat and vegetables.

For dinner, the astronauts had rice, spicy tuna, fried chicken, stir-fried mushrooms with minced meat and stir-fried romaine lettuce.

The snacks for the day were peach juice, marinated chicken gizzard, chocolate, canned fruit and cookies.

Major-General Nie and his crew members entered Tianhe last Thursday afternoon after their Shenzhou-12 spacecraft docked with the module earlier in the day.

The spaceship was launched by a Long March-2F carrier rocket that blasted off last Thursday morning from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in north-western China.