Salt in Space
Credit: © Art Directors & TRIP / Alamy

Sometimes it seems like all the hip food-related jobs are working for artisan bakeries and organic Korean taco trucks. Not so. Take for instance Maya Cooper, a member of the team that makes meals for NASA. She figured out, among other things, how to make a crab cake that can be eaten in outer space, which for our money is at least as cool as a short rib burrito.

CNN recently spoke with Cooper, who is a food scientist at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. It’s her team’s job to delicately navigate the balance between food that meets astronauts’ needs and food that a human—astronaut or not—would want to eat.

Living in zero gravity actually requires more energy than living on Earth (floating around all day apparently isn’t as easy as it sounds), so astronauts must maintain a 3,000-calorie a day diet. “We know exactly what they're eating,” Cooper told CNN, “so we have better data in terms of how food actually impacts the body.”

Cooper says her team faces all types of challenges, including food that’s preserved well enough to not spoil, packaging constraints, nutritional requirements and maintaining what she calls the “psychological experience that comes with eating.” Examples of foods that keep astronauts sane are Indian fish curry, crab cakes and a number of different desserts. “You can't live without dessert!” she explained.

CNN even offers up a link to a recipe for the aforementioned astronaut crab cakes. It’s just like you’d see for regular crab cakes, except the measurements are given down to the tenth of a gram. Apparently, scientists aren’t into eyeballing; I guess you can’t get a spaceship to the moon by adding a couple dashes more of rocket fuel.