February 25, 2008

Kimchi in Space

A South Korean scientist is headed for the International Space Station and he is bringing Kimchi with him. The New York Times has the story:
Starship Kimchi: A Bold Taste Goes Where It Has Never Gone Before
After South Korea began sending soldiers to fight beside American forces in Vietnam, President Park Chung-hee made an unusual plea. He wrote to President Lyndon Johnson to say that his troops were miserable, desperate for kimchi, the fermented cabbage dish that Koreans savor with almost every meal.

Chung Il-kwon, then the prime minister, delivered the letter to Washington. When he traveled overseas, he told Johnson, he longed for kimchi more than for his wife. The president acquiesced, financing the delivery of canned kimchi to the battlefield.

Now kimchi is set to conquer the final frontier: space.

When South Korea�s first astronaut, Ko San, blasts off April 8 aboard a Russian spaceship bound for the International Space Station, the beloved national dish will be on board.

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.

Their so-called space kimchi won approval this month from Russian authorities.

�This will greatly help my mission,� Mr. Ko, who is training in Russia, said in a statement transmitted through the Korea Aerospace Research Institute. �When you�re working in spacelike conditions and aren�t feeling too well, you miss Korean food.�
Cool idea - real Kimchi is in a state of continuous active fermentation. A bit more from the article:
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.

�Imagine if a bag of kimchi starts fermenting and bubbling out of control and bursts all over the sensitive equipment of the spaceship,� Mr. Lee said.
What a story that would make -- mutated Kimchi bacteria taking over the astronauts brains and turning them into space zombies... Hell, I'd watch it if it was on the TV. Posted by DaveH at February 25, 2008 6:21 PM
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