The Wholly Unexpected Success Of Astronaut Ice Cream

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been responsible for many popular products over the years, although none of them were created with the public in mind. As USA Today notes, these products were a result of NASA's quest to find solutions for issues like zero gravity, which astronauts had to deal with during missions for the space program.

One of the most famous products associated with astronauts, however, wasn't made by NASA. According to Food & Wine, Tang, the powdered orange drink that astronaut John Glenn had onboard during his orbit around the earth in 1962, was created by the General Foods Corporation in the late 1950s but didn't become successful until after its journey into space.

Meanwhile, per Yahoo, the long list of products that NASA did invent ranges from camera phones and laptop computers to wireless headphones and GPS technology, many of which we now take for granted and would find it unimaginable to live without. Freeze drying technology, by contrast, isn't quite so ubiquitous. But, the NASA created process has produced some popular food items — notably astronaut ice cream.

From NASA to Walt Disney World

Although NASA's mission was never to create popular products, they certainly played a major part in the success of astronaut ice cream. Not only did they pioneer freeze drying technology, via Yahoo, but their desire for a freeze dried ice cream to sell in the gift shop of their Goddard Air and Space Museum also led to the creation of astronaut ice cream, shares Serious Eats

As Serious Eats explains, the man who ended up making the astronaut ice cream was Ron Smith, founder of American Outdoor Products. That was in the 1970s, and the first product Smith made was a Neapolitan ice cream sandwich that had to be sliced by a bandsaw. As Astronaut Foods, a division of American Outdoor Products, explains, the freeze drying process sucks out 98% of the water in ice cream, creating a treat that packs a densely sweet crunch.

It's a different sensory experience to be sure, but one that quite a few people seem to like. Nowadays, notes Serious Eats, Astronaut ice cream isn't just sold in one museum, but at museums nationwide. It's also sold at Walt Disney World, and, as NASA Spinoff observes, at over 1,000 retail locations globally.