Heavenly and Delicious

Dec. 11, 2006— -- The shrimp cocktail NASA sends into space must be something special. Shuttle commander Mark Polansky has requested it for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day during the current 12-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Shrimp cocktail for breakfast? Not many kids would opt for that, especially when the second entree is creamed spinach.

What is it about the shrimp cocktail? European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter, who has been living on the International Space Station for six months, listed it as one of his favorite space foods as well.

Earlier this year, Reiter told ABC News, "I think that actually, the shrimp cocktail is very tasty, and I like it a lot."

Extra Spicy, Please

Vicky Kloeris manages the food eaten by the astronauts on the space station. She said the shrimp cocktail is by far the most requested entree on the menu. Her theory: It's spicy. She said the astronauts have told her that spicy food tastes better in space.

What's the most popular drink? Lemonade, because it's tart. Astronauts request the lemonade most often because sweet drinks are well, too sweet, while they are in orbit.

Space food has evolved into something much more palatable and sophisticated than the applesauce in a tube that John Glenn feasted on in 1962. Glenn piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission of the United States.

NASA has learned a few things about food since then, and how to make it more appealing to busy astronauts.

The astronauts choose their own menus, and they have a little latitude in their snacks. Lisa Nowak launched mission STS 121 with a stash of chocolate. STS 116 crew member Joan Higginbotham said there was one food she wouldn't go into space without: "Twizzlers. Several of us are Twizzler fiends so we have our own packages of Twizzlers"

Applesauce and Tang remain on the menu. And this group of shuttle passengers will get to try a brand new dish designed by TV chef Rachel Ray, who created three new, space-worthy recipes -- Swedish meatballs, spicy Thai chicken and vegetable curry.

What's no longer on the space food menu?

"Graham crackers," Kloeris said. "The cookies were just too crumbly and all those crumbs floating around the space shuttle were a problem." (It's the same reason astronauts have tortillas on board instead of bread.) Fish was a problem too, because of the odor, Kloeris added.