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The first brave souls who flew in space (better known as "the guinea pigs") were given an unappetizing choice—cubes covered with edible gelatin or semi-liquid food puree squeezed out of a toothpaste-like tube. The result was summed up by one newspaper headline: "Space Food Hideous—But It Costs A Lot."
Hideous or not, the public was eating it up, or in the case of Tang, drinking it in abundance. When junior space travelers discovered Tang was being used by the space program, sales of the instant breakfast drink skyrocketed.
The Pillsbury Company, which had been lending its support to NASA, saw an opportunity to catch a little "moon fever" for their company. Their efforts lead to the creation of Space Food Sticks.
Lead by Dr. Howard Bauman, the food scientists at Pillsbury whipped up an energy stick that was actually edible. Created as a contingency food, the long chewy stick could slide into an airtight port located in an astronaut's helmet to provide essential nutrition in case of an emergency.
This uniquely-textured energy snack secured a coveted spot on the historic Apollo moon flights. Before Neil Armstrong's "leap" in 1969 Pillsbury released a commercial spin-off of their cosmic creation, imaginatively dubbing the product Space Food Sticks.
Described as a "non-frozen balanced energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein," the Tootsie Roll-like candy came in several flavors featuring caramel, chocolate, malt, mint, orange and the ever-popular peanut butter. Aficionados will recall that the Space Food Sticks were wrapped in special foil to give them an added space-age appearance.
In 2002, Terra Firma Products brought Space Food Sticks back to the USA after a twenty year absence. Satisfying the cravings of longtime fans as well as creating an entirely new generation of "stick aficionados," the chewy sticks are alive and well in the 21st Century.
In the early 70's, women were not part of the space program and girls were not allowed to do many of the things boys could. One of those things was going on the high school’s winter camping trip. A group of girls convinced the teachers that girls could handle the rigors of the trip. They finally won approval to include girls IF they could find twelve girls to go. The teachers felt this was an impossible 'quota' but with me as the final entry, we made it. My mother, who had insisted that I go, packed three flavors of Space Food Sticks for me.
Picture me at sixteen, in one of those surplus Air Force parkas (green with fur trim on the tunnel hood), reaching down with my heavily gloved hand to pick up the foil wrapper from one of those snacks. It had lodged between my snowshoes as I stood on ten feet of snow somewhere in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Right at that moment, one of the boys said something sexist. Balancing the 40-pound backpack, I straightened up and held that wrapper high over my head shaking my fist in the Women’s Liberation salute.
The next year, there was no question about whether girls could go on the camping trip. We had broken that barrier forever. Eventually, because of all the girls and women who took a stand against ‘only boys allowed’ rules, Sally Ride went into space. Today, thirty years later, when I’m asked to talk to girls and young women about their career choices, I tell them about that experience. I explain what it means to them that a dozen girls fought to go camping in the snow. Maybe the next time I speak, I’ll bring Space Food Sticks for my audience. ~ Showey from Michigan