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ambongan
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I have a story where I have the characters in a space ship and type of food becomes important.

I have no artificial gravity, though on the large ships I have some spinning sections to provide forces like gravity.

I know that NASA uses specially prepared ration tubes for zero-g. Is that necessary?

Can I have then bring real food to prepair, of is that not possible?


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Jeraliey
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I think a lot of what NASA does is concerned with economy of mass and storage space. You might end up wanting to take those into consideration, depending on the technology you're playing with.
If you wanted to cook a gourmet dinner, though, you'd probably have to find a way to contain it so it doesn't end up decorating the dining area and the dinner guests. Also think about how people would be able to convey it from said container to their mouths. How is the food stored? Does it need to be refrigerated? What happens to the waste?
A lot of this depends on whether you're working with an isolated system.
Happy cooking!

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Survivor
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Liquids are the big problem. Also, any form of cooking more complex than microwaving isn't recommended for zero-G, and open flames are right out.

Plates and bowls are entirely useless, of course, as are spoons and cups. Forks and knives are merely problematical...requiring special complementary utensils to be of much use. Most finger foods and some things you eat with chopsticks would be fine. But anything that consisted of many small bits would be as bad or even worse than a liquid (fried rice would be a total disaster).


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babylonfreek
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Ration tubes are SO Gemini/Apollo!

Astronauts today eat dehydrated or freeze-dried food that come in pre-packed trays. They are NOT microwaved, as microwaves would interfere with delicate electornics, but rehydrated in heated in inductive heat ovens. Most of these foods are fairly gooey (ie: kraft mac and cheese) so that they remain stuck to the tray. Liquids are drunk friom plastic cups with special straws with a valve, although they've been known to deliberately leave some liquid escape, then drink from the bubble of floating fluids.

The food is actually pretty good, about as good as military MRE rations or any intitutional cafeteria food... a long ways from paste-in-tubes.


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Monolith
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I can tell you guys about MRE's (mysteries). The main course isn't too bad depending what you get. The crackers are nasty, tastes like cardboard. The whole thing has about 4k to 5k calories. There are alot of different condiments as well. Tabasco or whatnot, but it has been 10 years or so, but I'm thinking that meal like this wouldn't be a bad idea for a space-faring meal. High in calories, and gives energy. It could be commonplace and serve as standard chow on short-term space flights.

My input. If you have any questions about them as myself or HSO. ( I think he was in the military too )


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Lord Darkstorm
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If you are going to have a rotating part of the ship, put all the cooking/eating right along the hull. I do believe that the body starts to have problems if they spend too long in zero-G, and I don't remember the specifics. If it is going to be a long space flight, you will need some area people can walk, maybe sleep.
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HSO
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For those interested: http://science.howstuffworks.com/space-station12.htm

It's a link to howstuffworks.com and this article is about the International Space Station... I've linked only to the section about living on the station, which I believe is relevant to the discussion at hand.

Of note: howstuffworks.com is a quick and dirty resource for the laziest of researchers. Nearly everything imaginable is covered on the site and written in layman's terms. Certainly worth adding to your favorites/bookmarks.

Happy Writing.

HSO


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Doc Brown
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Something no one has mentioned yet is "residue." MRE's are great examples of low residue food, but so are astronaut meals. They are usful because some foods are absorbed by the body more completely than others.

How can I say this delicately? The lower the residue, the smaller the volume of output from the large intestine. There is a limit to this, since the output of the large intestine is a combination of unabsorbed residue and actual metabolic waste.

For example, it would be very expensive to feed astronauts corn-on-the-cob. You'd be using a lot of fuel to accelerate cobs and residue for a very small amount of vitamins and calories. If NASA wanted to justify launching all those cobs and residue into space, they would need to design a way of recycling the cobs and residue into something useful.

So in real spacecraft the recycling and disposal systems are a significant factor in determining the crew's diet. In your case the converse will be true; if you want them to eat sweet corn and lima beans, you need to give them a waste reclamation and recycling system that allows them to make something useful from the residue mass they brought aboard. If you apply some imagination I'm sure you'll come up with something good.

[This message has been edited by Doc Brown (edited August 09, 2004).]


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ambongan
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Thank You everyone. I now have some useful information. Primarily you have confirmed my thoughts, but I got some nice new tidbits as well.

In my story I have one character hidden in a special crate that, when scanned, appears to be a crate of rice. It makes it past security, but later, the higher offecer notices the report and realized how the guy escaped because of the abserdity of taking rice into space. (The inspector is promptly demoted.)

I'll use the new information I got to make minor changes, but the main concept will work well.

Thanks Again.


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Survivor
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Huh...rice?

And this guy is "escaping" into space?

I'm thinking that there are story difficulties here you haven't fully understood.


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ambongan
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Yes, escaping.

There are lots of places, planets, stations and ships to choose from, but he must first get off the planet while being sought.

plus there are other issues I've not made you privvy to, but which are planned out in detail.


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EricJamesStone
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If there is a thriving off-world economy (which there seems to be, if there are lots of inhabited places in space), then I fail to see how it would be absurd to take rice into space.
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djvdakota
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Unless it were part of the crew rations list, rather than packaged for export.
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ambongan
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Yes, it was listed as part of a crew rations.
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mikemunsil
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I could easily see crew rations including rice if there were a cultural or religious imperative involved.

[edited to correct my abominable typing]

[darn this computer! why won't it just show what I want instead of what I actually type? ]

[This message has been edited by mikemunsil (edited August 10, 2004).]


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Survivor
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If there is enough of an off-world population for this guy to "escape" from a planet into the off-world population then that implies a staggering amount of space based economic activity.

In that situation, there wouldn't be anything that wouldn't plausibly be sent into space. And there would be almost no reason for severe constraints on what people could import for food.


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ambongan
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You guys are all right about many possible details, including what could be transported and what would look suspitious.

It might help if I were a little more specific.

The character in question is wanted for treason, but was recruted by a group opposed to the empress. The group is headed by a military leader and consists of "trainees" for the military. The "trainee" group is heading off for extended manouvers in space and has hidded the character in question so he can get off-world. The group will then make an attempt to cause problems for the government. (Who is good and who is bad dosn't matter for this explaination.) The government agents searching for the character are searching everywhere near the characters home town, including the military bases. They scan the crates the "trainee" group is taking as supplies. later, the government reviews the search results and notices that, for a training group, they were taking an unusual amount of rice. This causes the government to guess what happened to the character they're looking for and to suspect the training group and it's leader.

I determained that special space meals of some type would be the primary food, but that they would and could have "real" food occationally. It wouldn't be suspect if they had some "normal" food, but a crate of rice would be unusual.


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Survivor
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Okay, this is starting to make a bit more sense.

Still, why would they try to disguise him as a crate of rice? That would be very difficult, and not very convincing, as you have already noted.

Besides, a couple hundred pounds of rice wouldn't be at all unusual for a good sized group of soldiers, presuming that you intend to cook it any other way than as fried rice.


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ambongan
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I see the difficulties you point out, but it did work at first. It was only the second person looking over the results that realized the problem.

As to the amount of rice working for a good sized group of people... This is actually a relatively small group.

disguising him as a crate of rice isn't difficult because all you are really doing is fooling electronic scanners.

The difficulty is in that you have to get over the fact that they chose rice for the scanner in the first place. I suppose I could get around that, but the reader dosn't discover the problems with the rice until well after the characters get away with it, and by that time, the reader may not think back.


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EricJamesStone
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> but the reader dosn't discover the
> problems with the rice until well after
> the characters get away with it, and by
> that time, the reader may not think back.

This sort of attitude in an author can be annoying to the reader.

Sure, you can get away with logical inconsistencies in your stories, if the rest of the work is well done. But that doesn't mean readers don't notice them.

It is almost always possible to explain away such inconsistencies, with just a tiny bit of effort.

Maybe he bought the scanner-fooler for cheap from some smugglers, and found out afterward that the mimic setting was stuck on rice.


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ambongan
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I had thought of other ways of explaining it, but none were very short of subtle. Yours is great. I'll use a variation on it.

Thanks

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Survivor
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Well, I still don't like that.

The problem is that if you ship rice into space in a crate, there is no need for life support or significant radiation shielding. It's just rice, after all.

So I could imagine a small anti-scan device that would trick a scanner into thinking that a crate filled with rocks of crack (or your futuristic equivalent) was just full of rice, but you aren't trying to disguise a crate full of crack. You're trying to hide a guy that is wearing a full on spacesuit.

The hard part is hiding the radiation shielding and the life support equipment. Compared to those, hiding the guy is trivial. In fact, since the guy would be inside the shielding, you wouldn't need to hide him from a scanner at all.

And trying to get the reader to swallow something stupid because they'll be further along in the story before you point out that it was stupid is...not very clever.


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Robyn_Hood
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What if they didn't use food to smuggle him? They're military right, why not have them bring along "police" dogs? The dogs have to be in sealed stasis pods for space travel. You could even use the smuggling device to falsify his vital signs. Instead of registering German Sheppard, it ends up reading French Poodle. One of the army guys talks a good line and gets the cargo dudes to ignore it but later, when the reports are filed, the sky marshal puts two and two together but of course by then it is too late. The ship has been out of port for nearly a week.....
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QuantumLogic
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quote:
The problem is that if you ship rice into space in a crate, there is no need for life support or significant radiation shielding. It's just rice, after all.
Yes, that's true, but since the people on the ship are supposed to be eating it, it's probably going to be in a fairly easily accessible place, meaning a place with life support. So the person hiding inside will not need a space suit or anything like that.

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Survivor
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It would store better in the cold hold. If I had a cold hold that's where I'd keep my rice.
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punahougirl84
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Just don't let it get wet - if you thought faulty O-rings were a problem...

Seriously, it's hard to think you have a clever idea, then find out there are issues beyond the ones you thought up. I'm having to seriously rethink a story I haven't really written yet, but have tons of notes on. And I keep finding out things that make my initial clever ideas crack. So keep asking myself questions like "why would they do that" and "what are all the things that could happen if" and "what could make this not work" - jabbing my own stuff until it holds up under pressure.

So you may really have to rethink this, ask the hard "whys" that everyone is suggesting, and maybe it will turn out that your story wants or needs to work differently than how you originally envisioned it. That doesn't mean you can't do something like what you want, but you might need to go off tangentially to your original idea.

This essentially sounds like a story you could just set here on earth back a hundred or so years a go - stowaway hides amid food/livestock in cargo hold of ship, isn't discovered that he has escaped until too late, etc.

If you can deal with life support and shielding, and the scanner-fooler stuck on "rice" (haha), and all the other myriad issues of first concealing, then getting contraband aboard a spaceship (look at all the security issues we have today), you can probably move on to other problems.

I wish you luck. I wish I could get my story worked out, but I'm not even at the point where I can post a question for help (well, I'd have too many questions).


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Robyn_Hood
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quote:
The problem is that if you ship rice into space in a crate, there is no need for life support or significant radiation shielding.

Actually, wouldn't the radiation turn the rice into Rice Krispies or at the very least puffed rice (the kind they make those rice cakes out of)?

I agree on the life support thing though.


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EricJamesStone
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I disagree with Survivor about the necessity for life support. QuantumLogic is right: if the rice is designated as part of crew rations, the cooks aren't going to want to put on a space suit to go get it.

Even if the storage compartment is refrigerated, the stowaway can easily carry sufficient equipment to survive that -- present-day sleeping bags are technologically adequate for maintaining warmth in a refrigerated environment.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
The hard part is hiding the radiation shielding and the life support equipment. Compared to those, hiding the guy is trivial. In fact, since the guy would be inside the shielding, you wouldn't need to hide him from a scanner at all.

This made me think of a story I read a long time ago about a king who hires a bunch of magical guards who can see through things. He's so proud of the guards that he offers a prize to anyone who can sneak something past them out of the castle. A little boy decides to try for the prize so he goes to the castle every day and brings out a load of something (leaves, dirt, gravel, etc) in a little red wagon. The guards "see" through the load and find nothing hidden there, so they let him pass them. When it comes time to award the prize, the little boy takes the king to his house and shows him all the little red wagons he has stolen.

(If anyone knows the title of this story, please tell me. I'd like to get a copy of the book.)

Anyway, if you absolutely have to use rice, fine. But if you don't, why not sneak the guy on board in a shipment of spacesuits?


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ambongan
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I appriciate all the help.

The idea of radiation or cold storage isn't a worry fro me. I figure they bring up the supplies they need into the ship without worring about that. The ship they initially go to isn't really large enough to have superlong-term storage.

As for the other concerns, I believe I have gleened enough from your suggestions to fix those.


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Survivor
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Hmph. I have a perfectly good vacuum and you want to use a refridgerator? Well, looks like I'm outvoted for now. This is why our guys still eat out of bags, though.
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shadowynd
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quote:
about a king who hires a bunch of magical guards who can see through things.

The version I heard, as a joke, was a factory worker using a wheelbarrow, and taking it out past the security guard.

I've never heard of it as a fable.

Susan


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Kolona
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Then again, Anakin and Senator Amidala ate on the public transport to her planet. So in space opera, you can eat with more latitude on spaceships.
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