Space Food Sticks are a living monument to golden
years of the Space Age. In the formative years of space
travel, food represented a major hurdle for NASA technicians.
Keeping it fresh, tasty and safe was tricky business.
The first brave souls who flew in space (better known
as "the guinea pigs") were given an unappetizing
choice-cubes covered with edible gelatin or semi-liquid
food puree squeezed out of a toothpaste-like tube.
The result was summed up by one newspaper headline: "Space
Food Hideous-But It Costs A Lot."
Hideous or not, the public was eating it up, or in
the case of Tang, drinking it in abundance. When junior
space travelers discovered Tang was being used by the
space program, sales of the instant breakfast drink
The Pillsbury Company, which had been lending its
support to NASA, saw an opportunity to catch a little "moon
fever" for their company. Their efforts lead to
the creation of Space Food Sticks.
A battery of food scientists at Pillsbury, lead by
Dr. Howard Bauman, whipped up an energy stick that
was actually edible. The long chewy stick could slide
into an airtight port located in an astronaut's helmet
to provide essential nutrition in case of an emergency.
Pillsbury released a commercial spin-off of their cosmic
creation, imaginatively dubbing the product Space Food
Described as a "non-frozen balanced energy snack
in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts
of carbohydrate, fat and protein," the original
energy bars came in several flavors including caramel,
chocolate, malt, mint, orange and the ever-popular
peanut butter. Aficionados will recall that the Space
Food Sticks were wrapped in special foil to give them
an added space-age appearance.
In 1973, a version of SFS made its way on the Skylab
3 mission. To read the NASA press release from this
mission click here:
The downfall of Space Food Sticks began after the
energy crisis of the mid-1970s when the space program
took a back seat to other pressing issues. The product’s
profile was further reduced when Pillsbury dropped
the Space and distributed them as Food Sticks. The
word energy bar hadn’t been invented yet. Slowly
but inevitably the fabled Sticks gradually disappeared
from supermarket shelves.
The second (and just as improbable) part of the story
begins in the year 2000. That was the year that Retrofuture Products' owner Eric Lefcowitz
launched his website Retrofuture.com. One of the
articles on the site looked at futuristic foods including
Space Food Sticks.
Before long hundreds of Google hits were coming from curiosity-seekers searching for
any info they could find on the unforgettable astro-snack of
their youth. In 2001, Eric launched founded the "Space Food Sticks Preservation Society" at Spacefoodsticks.com. Thousands of heartfelt memories poured in which were
posted on the site. Eventually the demand for a full-scale
re-launching of SFS in the USA grew. After much trial
and error, Eric joined forces with Mario Medri, a world-renowned
food scientist and Kalman Vadasz of Richardson Brands
to recreate the taste and texture of the beloved Sticks.
Finally, in October 2006 two flavors of Space Food
Sticks—chocolate and peanut butter—were
launched by Retrofuture Products, satisfying the cravings
of longtime fans and winning a new generation of Sticks
fans in the process.Today, Space Food Sticks are sold at the Kennedy Space Center, Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, the Johnson Space Center, the Museum of Flight, Disney World, American Museum of Natural History, the Adler Planetarium and many other prestigious locales. Despite the odds, Space Food Sticks are alive and well in the 21st Century.