The Aborted Launch and Meteoric Rise of Astronaut Ice Cream
The funky, freeze-dried snack that’s been embraced by backpackers, soldiers, and apocalyptic survivalists has one surprising secret: Among space explorers, it never took off.
Illustrations by Leah Lin
The first time I tasted freeze-dried ice cream, I’d bought it at the John & Annie Glenn Historic Site in the village where I live, New Concord, Ohio, which is also the hometown of former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn. I ate the little square of sweet and dry Neapolitan something from its foil pack, not sure what to think. It wasn’t ice cream, exactly. But it wasn’t half bad, either.
“Astronaut Ice Cream” is a trademark owned by American Outdoor Products and its affiliated company, Backpacker’s Pantry, although other companies, such as Mountain House and Emergency Essentials, sell it as simply “freeze-dried ice cream.” According to NASA, the product was originally developed by the Whirlpool Corporation for the 1968 flight of Apollo 7. That would be, however, the ice cream’s first and last space flight. It was too crumbly to be safe at zero gravity.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial