South Korea will be sending their first astronaut, Ko San, into space on April 8th aboard a Russian spaceship bound for the International Space Station. The New York Times reports that San will be bringing with him one of Korea’s iconic dishes – kimchi in “Starship Kimchi: A Bold Taste Goes Where It Has Never Gone Before“:
“Three top government research institutes spent millions of dollars and several years perfecting a version of kimchi that would not turn dangerous when exposed to cosmic rays or other forms of radiation and would not put off non-Korean astronauts with its pungency… The South Koreans created versions of several other foods for Mr. Ko’s mission, including instant noodles, hot pepper paste, fermented soybean soup and sticky rice. But kimchi was the toughest to turn into space food… Ordinary kimchi is teeming with microbes, like lactic acid bacteria, which help fermentation. On Earth they are harmless, but scientists feared they could turn dangerous in space if cosmic rays and other radiation cause them to mutate… Another problem was that kimchi has a short shelf life, especially when temperatures fluctuate rapidly, as they sometimes do in space.”
The Korean government spent millions of dollars for space kimchi – that’s pretty crazy! I guess when you are in space, having comfort food can be pretty important. Apparently from the research, scientists have found a way to slow down the fermentation of kimchi for a month so that it can be shipped around the world at less cost – which will lead to helping the globalization of kimchi.