Toothpaste tubes are a fairly common object in our daily lives. They are small, practical and hygienic. It is hard to believe that this object, used to dispense toothpaste, creams or make-up, lived a very different life in the past… inside a spaceship.
In the first manned space voyages, around 1959, there was no way to carry food into space, and a solution to the microgravity conditions hadn’t yet been found. A mechanism was needed to allow astronauts to eat more or less conveniently, and scientists eventually came up with an idea: to put high-protein food in a tube with a screw. One of them contained borscht, a Russian soup. It was so bad that cosmonauts nicknamed it vodka, like the liquor.
Russians also invented the famous freeze-dried, or dehydrated, food for better preservation. Nothing to do with what they eat now at the International Space Station (some Saturdays they even cook pizza). These were rather small appetizers, a mouthful of a not very tempting special gelatine, which achieved, however, an important goal: moisturizing the mouth thanks to the production of saliva, and providing a lot of calories. The problem was that no one wanted to eat this gelatine and much of the space food returned down untouched.