For decades, museums and planetariums have been selling their alleged “astronaut ice cream,” friable blocks of chalky material tasting faintly of Neapolitan, to children with the promise that this is what real-life NASA astronauts enjoy for dessert when they’re up in space. Well, says Vox, it’s all hogwash. Kids have been hoodwinked for generations by NASA, and astronaut ice cream is purely a marketing fabrication, a cynical hoax targeting the innocent and naive. Vox lays out its evidence in a handsomely produced YouTube video titled “Astronaut Ice Cream Is A Lie.” The case is damning. Even the company that manufactures the stuff can’t really defend it from a historical standpoint. The only tenuous connection between astronauts and ice cream comes from the Apollo 7 mission in 1968, when a single menu and a lone press clipping make passing mention of vanilla ice cream. But Vox spoke with actual Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham, who dismisses the whole “astronaut ice cream” story as ridiculous. His words are unambiguous: “They don’t know their ass, obviously. We never had any of that.”
Meals aboard Apollo 7 were something to be endured, Cunningham says, not necessarily enjoyed. Besides, the crumbly stuff being promoted as ice cream for astronauts is wholly impractical. The particles would go flying everywhere. Today, Vox says, food quality in space has improved dramatically, allowing astronauts to enjoy genuine ice cream during missions. Meanwhile, those who want to relive the glory days of NASA’s past through space food are advised to try some selections that are savory rather than sweet. As Cunningham attests, the sweet stuff available to the astronauts tasted lousy and was generally shunned. He still holds a grudge against the butterscotch pudding. So what food did this astronaut truly enjoy? Space bacon. He even stowed some rectangular “bacon bars” in his space suit in case Apollo 7 was marooned.