Local culinary students compete to have their dish eaten by astronauts in space

Posted at 7:18 PM, Apr 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-16 19:18:46-04

Hampton, Va. - A team of culinary students in Hampton has cooked up a meal in hopes that it will one day be eaten by astronauts in space.

"It’s always been a dream for me to come to NASA and speak with astronauts and work with them as well," said senior student Brittney Richards.

Richards is one of six students from Phoebus High School, participating in a program through NASA Langley called HUNCH.  It stands for "High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware."

But instead of using instruments you would typically use in a science experiment, these students are using tools from the kitchen, to cook up an entrée they hope will be selected as astronaut food for the International Space Station.

The Phoebus team is one of seven teams from across the country that will compete for the top prize at Johnson Space Center in Houston on Thursday, April 23.

"I practiced making some, and I took it home to my mom, and she loved it," said junior student Irving Hughes.

Hughes and Richards said their team worked for months, doing research, writing a paper and coming up with recipes that astronauts could eat in zero gravity.

"The spice because their taste buds aren't really as strong out there, so they like a lot of spiciness and flavors, and crunchy things, so they miss that, too.  And also having a good, rounded meal that can meet all the vitamin and nutrition levels that they need," said Richards.

The team will submit spicy Jamaican lime shrimp, sautéed asparagus, and rice and beans with coconut milk as their entrée.

However, the winning meal won't look exactly like it does on the plate.  In fact, it will be packaged for astronauts to eat aboard the International Space Station.

On Wednesday, a panel of judges taste tested their meal, including Charles Camarda, a former NASA astronaut.  Camarda said the students did a fantastic job.

"We have so many different countries working with us [on the ISS} that you want to have a wide selection, and you want to make it a little bit spicier than you think you're going to like in space," said Camarda.

And after high marks at Wednesday's taste testing, the students hope to come back to Hampton Roads with a win.

"This would be one of my first biggest achievements - something I could tell people for a long time, that in my high school career, attending Phoebus High School, I was able to create a meal with my team to be used for astronauts to go to Outer Space anytime," said Richards.