South Korea’s first astronaut, 30-year-old computer science engineer Ko San, is preparing to bring kimchi where it’s never gone before. On April 8, he’ll blast off into space with two Russian cosmonauts, but he’s bringing his own lunch. The International Herald Tribune discusses the national importance of this fermented food:
‘If a Korean goes to space, kimchi must go there, too,’ said Kim Sung Soo, a Korea Food Research Institute scientist. ‘Without kimchi, Koreans feel flabby. Kimchi first came to our mind when we began discussing what Korean food should go into space.’
Well, nobody wants a flabby astronaut, but it took years of research and millions of dollars to develop outer-space-safe, bacteria-free kimchi. And according to the Korea Times, once scientists figured out how to use radiation to kill bacteria while retaining optimum taste, they found out that they weren’t allowed to seal the stuff in vacuum bags:
‘The Russian space agency worried that the kimchi would ferment in space, causing the sealed bag to explode,’ Lee [Ju-woon, a researcher] said. ‘It can be dangerous if a bag of kimchi explodes in space, because no one knows whether the anaerobic bacteria in the kimchi is safe there or not.’
Now they’re packaging this space kimchi in cans, and Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo seems to think that kimchi will become a staple of future space travel:
Space kimchi is expected to be of great help in stimulating astronauts’ appetite with its zest and spices. In addition, it is effective in promoting the intestinal functions, which tend to be somewhat sluggish in space, with abundant fiber.
Let’s hope it’s a big hit with the cosmonauts, because if kimchi doesn’t get sent out to space again, South Korea just spent millions of bucks on some spoiled scientist who can’t get through a 10-day mission without his favorite snack. Not that he’s the first astronaut to feel that way.