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If you want to try a “cool” astronaut science activity with your kids, try making some Space food. Today I want to show you how to make astronaut ice cream! It’s so fun & a delicious treat, too!
I grew up in Southern Florida. I remember each time a space shuttle would launch from Cape Canaveral, we would go outside during elementary school and watch it go off in the sky. I always wanted to be an astronaut as a kid and was certain I would make it to the moon someday.
The Challenger explosion was quite memorable, to say the least! It’s something I will never forget. But that fact that there was a woman astronaut on that shuttle only made me more determined.
Although I obviously did not become an astronaut, I have always loved what they do and the amazing discoveries they have made. I have always loved learning about space.
During my many field trips to the Cape Canaveral Space Center as a kid, I learned so much about how astronauts. I learned how they live and work in space as well as what they eat. I was always fascinated by the freeze dried space foods and particularly loved the astronaut ice cream! I’ve gotten it for my kids a few times from gift shops at science museums.
It’s definitely a different texture and experience than eating ice cream! But, it’s fun for kids to imagine what eating ice cream in space is like. Now you can find it online easily.
Why Do Astronauts Freeze Dry Their Food?
This is a common question people have. Freeze drying takes out over 90% of the water content in food. This makes it significantly lighter, yet it does not loose hardly any of the nutritional content. It has an incredible shelf life and is easy to rehydrate. This makes it a perfect thing for traveling in a ship that needs to keep their weight light. You can freeze dry nearly every food, too! So the astronaut food options could be endless!
How to Make Astronaut Ice Cream
Now I know it is a freeze dried food, and I do not have a freeze dryer. To make actual freeze dried ice cream, you literally freeze dry regular ice cream. This recipe is for the regular people who do not have freeze driers in their homes!
There are actually In Home Freeze Dryer machines available for purchase from Harvest Right. I have friends who have them and love them! If you really want to give freeze drying food a go, this is the way to do it!
Meringue is very similar taste and texture to astronaut ice cream, so that’s what we are making today!
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or 1 tsp peppermint extract)
Gel food coloring (optional)
Mini chocolate chips for the mint chip flavor
Making the astronaut ice cream~
Start by separating your eggs and saving only the whites in a large bowl. Begin mixing them with an electric mixer until slightly foamy. Next add in the cream of tartar and mix again until it is white and foamy and soft peaks form. This will take a couple of minutes.
Next you will add your sugar. Be sure not to dump all of it in at once or it will deflate the foaminess! Slowly add it in a spoonful or two at a time while mixing. Add your extract and coloring in at this time, too. Mix it again until stiff peaks form- these will not bend over as you pull up a spatula or spoon.
We made two flavors with ours so I split it in half and made half vanilla and half min chocolate chip. Yum!
Scoop into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in an oven preheated to 200 degrees for 2 hours. This allows it time to sufficiently dry out and and get crispy.
Cool completely on the tray.
The History of Astronaut Ice Cream
The space food, astronaut ice cream was originally developed in 1968 and first made its way into space on the Apollo 7. It seems perfect, right. You don’t need to keep it frozen and it doesn’t go bad.
But, here’s the funny thing, that mission in 1968 was the only time this space food went to space! The astronauts never really liked it much. It is dry and crumbly and didn’t work well in a weightless space ship.
The Dippin Dots Ice cream is way more popular- but not actually freeze dried or eat in in space. However, this was also sold at the space museum!
The Science of Meringue
Did you know I was a home economics major in college and taught foods classes for several years before deciding to stay at home? Food science and nutrition is my thing! I am fascinated by this stuff.
Here is a little about the science of meringue and how it works.
When you whisk an egg white, it breaks down its original structure. The protein bonds are pulled apart and unwrap making it foamy. As they are mixed more, these proteins molecules link back together more loosely around pockets of air.
The sugar in the meringue is really important, too. The sugar added makes the mixture more stable and allows the baked meringues to crisp up. It also pulls the moisture out of the egg whites trapping them in air bubbles. When baking, that moisture is evaporated leaving behind crispy, bubbly meringues.
The amount of sugar whisked into the eggwhites will determine not only the stability of the mixture but also how crisp the resulting baked meringue will be.
The cream of tartar is acidic and also helps stabilize the meringue. This acid helps the egg whites to reach a higher volume as they are whipped and helps the eggs to hold in the air and the water at the same time.
Have you ever tried astronaut ice cream? What did you think? Try making this meringue astronaut ice cream with your kids to teach them about space food and the way astronauts have to eat in space!
Check out my Science Art Book for more inspiring & fun projects!
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