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Space Station Crew Forced to Cut Calories 434

gollum123 writes "CNN and others are reporting that food is running so low aboard the international space station that both the crew members have been asked to cut their calories, at least until a Russian supply ship arrives in a little over two weeks. The situation is so bad that if a Russian cargo vessel scheduled to arrive on Dec. 25 has a mishap or is significantly delayed, the astronauts, one American and one Russian, will have to abandon the station and return home months ahead of schedule. An independent team is looking into how the food inventory ended up being tracked so poorly and how it can be improved in the future."
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Space Station Crew Forced to Cut Calories

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  • by grazzy ( 56382 ) <grazzy@quake.sw e . n et> on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:28AM (#11049899) Homepage Journal
    .. where are they when you need them?

    • And here I thought you could order pizza, delivered, anywhere. You know, free delivery if you order two or more pizzas.

      "Hi, this is Leroy Chiao... I'd like to order two Quattro Stagiones, delivered, please... and put in some extra oregano, we're running low on that... International Space Station, in the orbit... yes, that's the one. Please hurry. Thanks, bye."

    • by skaffen42 ( 579313 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:01AM (#11050196)
      I'm pretty sure midnight snacking is what caused this problem. I mean, the ISS goes around the earth quite a few times every 24 hours, and the station probably experiences night every time. Now astronauts are by definition geeks, and I have never met a true geek who can keep themselves from heading to the snack cupboard at around midnight. Just think about how much snacking they end up doing and it is amazing their food supplies lasted as long as it did.

      As for McDonalds in space... no, no, no. That is how it starts. First the midnight snacking, then you start doing late night runs to McDonalds, then you have to buy the bigger space suit.

    • Next to Starbucks

  • Christmas (Score:5, Funny)

    by pklong ( 323451 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:33AM (#11049914) Homepage Journal
    "a Russian cargo vessel scheduled to arrive on Dec. 25". So they won't me missing out on the brussel sprouts this year. Poor sods :)
    • Just eat the ISS. They have the same test

    • You're just not cooking them properly.

      Steamed with a little butter and salt is best. And if you can't take the big ones, buy the frozen baby brussel sprouts. They have less of the flavor compounds that many (particularly those weaned on baby food and sweets) find distasteful.

      This has been another off-topic post.

  • Only 2 astronauts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nine Tenths of The W ( 829559 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:38AM (#11049928)
    Is the team usually this small or have most of them buggered off for Christmas?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      posting anonymously due to grossness.
    • The team size is directly related to the capacity of the rescue pod, which is a Soyuz craft docked to the station. Originally NASA was supposed to build a large Crew Rescue Vehicle which could hold up to seven people, but budget cuts killed that project. As a result the space station crew is now limited to no more than three.

      Having said that, I'm not entirely certain why they chose to work with just two people.

      • Re:Only 2 astronauts (Score:4, Informative)

        by FatAlb3rt ( 533682 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:12AM (#11050467) Homepage
        the Soyuz can hold 3, which has traditionally been the crew size on the station. until shuttle flights resume, the crew size will be limited to 2, since the Russians can't crank out enough Soyuz and Progress (supply) missions to support a crew of 3.

  • Before people start mocking Russians, and their food situation, just let me say that I ate more of, and better quality food when I was in Russia than I usually do in the UK. Salo though, is horrible stuff.
  • by King_of_Prussia ( 741355 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:42AM (#11049941)
    IIRC, the database software that tracks the food inventories on board the space station and the space shuttle on longer flights runs on proprietary code. Perhaps if the software were revamped, and open source software used instead the community could help out a little? Many eyes make for few bugs -- and when the bugs are as easy to spot as the "food" entry reading zero I see no reason to put up with badly written, unfree software.

    Hell, with the savings made they could probably upgrade the menus a bit, instead of eating paste three times a day they could afford to buy the astronauts some hot grits or something equally tasty once in a while.

  • by sllim ( 95682 ) <(ten.knilhtrae) (ta) (ecnahca)> on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:42AM (#11049942)
    I like my toys as much, no possibly MORE then the next guy. And God knows aviation is my thing.
    The Space Station should be a no brainer.

    But there comes a time where you have to say, 'Look we gave it the good old college try. If it was meant to be it would be a success already, but alas it isn't working out.'.

    For Gods sake deorbit it already.

    Could there possibly be a more humiliating end to the space station then being abondend for lack of food?
    • by R.Caley ( 126968 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @07:04AM (#11050025)
      'Look we gave it the good old college try. If it was meant to be it would be a success already, but alas it isn't working out.'.

      Whether it is a sucess depends on what you consider it's purpose to have been. In so far it has a purpose it is to exist and be manned, nothing more, and at that it has suceeded. The problems, beyond the expeted small technical ones, have all been due to America not having a worthwhile launch system to do their end of the job.

      All of the other supposed purposes which it has not suceeded against were bogus anyway. No one had a real scientific mission for it for instance. These purposes were just made up to get the budget past politicians who had no interest in space projets per-se. So, except for the politics, there is no reason to worry that it hasn't achieved them.

      •'s an airtight tin can with lots of heavy attachment points.

        Heavy attachmnet points for what?

        Original specs called for lots of solar panels.

        Lots and lots.

        As a test base for for a Solar Power Satellite.

        Guess King Coal didn't want that.
      • The problems, beyond the expeted small technical ones, have all been due to America not having a worthwhile launch system to do their end of the job.

        I like how you left out the part about Russia not being able to pay for their modules so they could be completed and sent up on time.

        • I like how you left out the part about Russia not being able to pay for their modules so they could be completed and sent up on time.

          That's just a delay in adding bells and whistles, the shuttle being useless has basicly crippled the day to day operation. There would be little problem with the resident's pigging out if the resupply schedule wasn't so touch-and-go.

  • by CodeWanker ( 534624 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:43AM (#11049947) Journal
    This could be the final straw for the ISS boondoggle. You can't do astronomy from the station that's even a tenth of the precision of Hubble. Why? All the vibrations from all the environmental gear. In fact, you can't do decent science experiments [] of any type. Why? Two people can't take time from just holding the place together to do the experiments, and we lack the budget (and now - the food!) to have a big enough crew to make the place something other than a multi-billion-dollar Astronaut Habitrail. [] Right now, it's no better than Mir was in its final days: astronauts spend all their time trying not to die. '"At present, the primary goal of the ISS is unclear," the NRC study observes.' I think it's dangerously close to changing from an investment to a sunk cost.
    • Bah, at least the ISS has some meaning. Astronomy is the laughing stock of all the sciences with only a modicum of value to the physicists. The space program is dying because it puts so much money into astronomy, something the vast majority of people see as useless and boring. Back when space exploration actually involved people the technological side benefits were much better for society and it was actually possible to get excited about space missions.

      If you guys want your advanced space stations that
      • The ISS has no meaning beyond the political. We've snapped together a crummy space station out of poorly constructed pieces. Huzzah. We COULD have built a station that actually embraced a new construction technology, or a self-sustaining biosphere. But we didn't. We built a rickety Habitrail In The Sky.

        And while you're happy trolling on Astronomy, I'm satisfied with: discovering new planets around other stars, determining the source of all the elemental building blocks of our planet, determining that
  • by kernelblaha ( 756819 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:44AM (#11049950)
    ...where finishing ahead of schedule is a bad thing!

    Maybe the astronauts jus ate too much all year so that they can be back home for Christmas turkey.
  • This is really bad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dancin_Santa ( 265275 ) <> on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:46AM (#11049957) Journal
    The problem with living in microgravity is that the lack of acceleration results in the decalcification of bones and the atrophy of muscle tissue. Some exercise (like the much-mocked Soloflex) can help stave off this atrophy, but the real key to the whole solution is to keep calcium and protein levels in the body high.

    Restricting food intake will result in some very serious physical damage to the astronauts. If you've ever seen footage of astronauts who have just returned to Earth after a long mission, they are hardly able to stand. That is with full nutrition. The poor astronauts up there now will have to deal with much lowered calcium and protein reserves in their blood and will likely suffer from advanced osteoporosis as well as general muscular atrophy.

    I'd go ahead and blame Windows programmers for this mistake. But in all seriousness, this is probably a result of the reliance on the cooperation of multiple nations to do the right thing according to the schedule. It's hard enough getting cats into a pen, it's that much harder to get countries known for 'cutting corners' (like Russia) to do their job correctly.
    • by Wudbaer ( 48473 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @07:03AM (#11050024) Homepage
      It's hard enough getting cats into a pen, it's that much harder to get countries known for 'cutting corners' (like Russia) to do their job correctly.

      Without the corner-cutting Russians they would have to wait for the next Space Shuttle for food... could be a long hungry wait. (yes, I know that they have a Soyus capsule for emergencies, which incidentially also is Russian).

    • by Tap-Sa ( 644107 )
      But in all seriousness, this is probably a result of the reliance on the cooperation of multiple nations to do the right thing according to the schedule.

      Like regular shuttle flights...

    • by bsartist ( 550317 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:18AM (#11050255) Homepage
      It's hard enough getting cats into a pen, it's that much harder to get countries known for 'cutting corners' (like Russia) to do their job correctly.

      Um, you do realize, don't you, that the effects you're talking about here were documented by Soviet cosmonauts after long-term missions aboard Mir? Sounds to me like they did their jobs pretty damn well.

      Oh, and in case you missed it, the Russians aren't coming up short when it comes to ISS flights - NASA is. The Russians are stepping up to the plate and getting both US and Russian crew into orbit.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      it's that much harder to get countries known for 'cutting corners' (like Russia) to do their job correctly..

      And the only reason that it's the Russians who are supplying the station is because of the Columbia disaster:

      But he said it is no more critical than previous supply runs, which have been conducted exclusively by the Russians ever since last year's Columbia disaster.

      Before moaning about other countries, perhaps you should look to the problems in your own...
    • It's hard enough getting cats into a pen, it's that much harder to get countries known for 'cutting corners' (like Russia) to do their job correctly.

      Of course, it's a shame that the Russians are almost two years behind with their planned space shuttle flights to ISS. Oh, wait ...
  • Survivor! (Score:5, Funny)

    by nacturation ( 646836 ) <> on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:48AM (#11049963) Journal
    Why not turn it into a new reality TV show, a la Survivor? This could easily provide a smidgen of the funding to keep the space station going. And instead of voting people off the space station, the person who loses a challenge gets eaten, so the food situation practically solves itself.
    • Actually I seem to remember that before they started work on ISS there was some talk of doing a reality-tv series on board called Astronauts, heck I'd watch it. "This weeks we 'ave put the station-mates on a 'alf rations, lets see 'ow they're doin"
  • Hey, they Nasa is such a wonderful organisation. They did : a poem ( em.html/ []), some photo shoots with aerosmith (http://http// /index.html [http]) and so much more. What can you say, i guess now is the time for serious issues, like food on space stations, lol. Those who wonder at those who do wonder, while those who do, well, do. Unless, i do wonder?
  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:49AM (#11049969)
    It's interesting to note that as Americans, who believe we have the best and greatest technology on the globe (though we depend a lot on other countires), cannot get [back] to the Space Station unless we utilize "out-dated" Russian technology!

    This hurts me because in a few decades, when the majority of our manufacturing base has been outsourced, we'll have to depend on outside help for the very basics of our way of life. This is already happening if one considers the flu vaccine.

    The Russians, though poor, seem to make better technical decisions. I remember a slashdotter mentioning here sometime ago that Russian helicopters can be fixed with the simplest of everyday materials and still deliver (read reliably fly)! Contrast that with American ones that require hours of maintenance for a few hours of flight. The Sea Kings (of Canada) require 30 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight, and they are unavailable for operations 40 per cent of the time. ing.html [].


    • Although ironically, we're the last to get the really good Japanese gadgets, and for some reason, American TV shows premeire in the UK before they air on American TV. Go figure....
    • The Russian stuff is simple not out of philosophy, but because they're forced to make do with whatever is availible. Sure, the heli will fly, but does it have radar, GPS, IFF, air conditioning, redundant controls, and other modern comforts? I sure as hell wouldn't fly on a Russian aircraft.

      The Canadaian example is sad...though it's entirely due to the gov't underfunding their military and not buying new helis to replace the ancient Sea Kings. Used to be, the Canadian Forces punched far about their weig

    • There is a story going around about Americans spending millions of dollars trying to improve the pen that can be used in environments that have no gravity (with miniature pump to push out the ink), while at the same time Russians used a ...pencil!
      • Sigh...ancient urban legend. See [] for the usual debunking. The TV show "West Wing" recently reported this hoax as true, so probably more people believe it now.

        A regular pencil creates lots of graphite dust, which is a big problem in zero gravity. It gets into computer gear and creates short circuits.

      • Sorry, thats a Myth (Score:3, Informative)

        by bjomo ( 832719 )
        While the Fisher space pen did require a large sum of money to develop, NASA had nothing to do with the development. In fact, NASA also used pencils before the space pen was available.

        This is just like the story of one of the very first modal imapact hammers. A modal impact hammer is used for vibration testing. It contains a force transducer in the head of the hammer so you can measure the excitation force applied to the structure you are hitting with it. Anyway, it one of these efforts to trim the fat
  • by hashwolf ( 520572 )
    "...the astronauts, one American and one Russian..." That's just ONE astronaut right?
  • To help those starving astronauts!

    Just like the 80's when Ethopia needed food, or those Willy Nelson Farm-Aid concerts, we can get a group of singers to make a song about Xmas and feeding those in space!

    "Feed the world! And Space Station guys too!"

    Where's Michael Jackson when you need him?

    The Alternate idea is to make Space Station Survior and turn it into a reality TV show. The problem is -- there aren't enough whackos on the station -- we need to add a few more "aggressive personalities" to liven up t
  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @07:01AM (#11050014) Homepage Journal
    I know April is still quite far off, but just look at it:

    ``NASA and the Russian Space Agency were stunned to learn last week that the astronauts had begun digging into the 45-day food reserve -- which exists to protect against a delayed supply shipment -- in mid-November.''

    Do they seriously mean that:

    1. The astronauts weren't supplied with enough food
    2. The situation was so bad they had to dig into the reserves
    3. They didn't tell Earth about this?

    If this is how seriously the people involved take their mission, I say we cut the funding right here, right now.

    I've never been able to see space flight as anything but a waste of time, energy and money, but I've been okay with it; other people have lives and opinions too. But time and time again it turns out they don't do it properly. Exploding rockets and space shuttles, confusing metric and imperial units, failed Mars missions, and now this.
  • Does this spacesuit make me look fat? I mean, seriously? Space travel always makes me feel soooooo bloated.
  • I guess someone has been raiding the fridge at the ISS.
  • ...when you can't sleep and raid the fridge every night ;)

    Seriosly thought, What worries me the most isn't that they have started eating of the reserves - because thats why you have reserves - but that it took so long for people to notice.

  • can they? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GerbilSocks ( 713781 )
    Any possibilities of them reconstituting their own poop?
  • Whey and flax oil powder? Maybe some vitimins too.

    Maybe I'll try it myself. If my blog goes a bit quiet consider it failed

  • by ceeam ( 39911 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @07:16AM (#11050076)
    The previous crew has apparently eaten all the meat and tasties. All is left in abundance now is some confectionery and some juices if I recall correctly what I read yesterday. Now you see - when your mom was telling you to eat it all and not to pick your food she, in fact, was preparing you to be a spaceman one day.
  • by nigham ( 792777 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @07:55AM (#11050178) Homepage
    finish your food kiddo... there are hungry astronauts in space.
  • by syntap ( 242090 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:08AM (#11050225)
    Don't we all know by now it's the CARBS that count and not calories?

    My best sig is this one.
  • by Dammital ( 220641 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:29AM (#11050546)
    Live at the Hungry i, circa 1961 --
    Q: I would imagine that food is a major problem on a trip into outer space...

    A: ... it is, you know! They only allow you to have the ten ounces of food.

    Q: Only ten ounces?

    A: Yah.

    Q: Well, how will you manage?

    A: I'll eat out...

  • by thewiz ( 24994 ) * on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:34AM (#11050577)
    If the astronauts are upset that NASA screwed up the food supply, they could always rebel and go on a hunger strike.
    Uh, wait..That's what NASA wants them to do...
  • by constantnormal ( 512494 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @11:01AM (#11051256)
    ... from many "news" outlets.

    It is uniformly described as a "diet" or "cutback".

    Will someone please explain to me why no one is willing to use the term "forced rationing"? As that certainly seems to be the most accurate description from the high peak of reason and sensibility where I reside...

    Or maybe the "news" is not about presenting "accurate description"s.
  • by El_Smack ( 267329 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @12:01PM (#11051862)
    Upside: No drug laws in space.
    Downside: You still get the munchies.
  • by chris_mahan ( 256577 ) <> on Friday December 10, 2004 @04:37PM (#11055086) Homepage
    motherly order a the dining table:
    "Now Johnny, finish your vegetables. Don't you know the astronauts on the space station don't have enought to eat?"

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"