The First Astronaut To Bring Chocolate Into Space

For over 4,000 years, chocolate has been deemed both a bitter and sweet delicacy and sacred food (via History). Harvested from cacao trees in Central and South America, the treat has been considered the "food of the gods" due to its believed sacred properties and currency value. According to Dame Cacao, over seven and a half tons of chocolate is harvested and consumed annually around the world. In the United States alone, the average person eats 24 pounds of chocolate every year, supporting an $18 billion industry (via World Cocoa Foundation). So if you're one to enjoy a chocolatey treat every day, you're likely in the majority.

Depending on your career path though, incorporating the sweet flavors of chocolate might not come as easily. Just like government officials and nurses must regularly pass drug tests to stay in their positions, astronauts actually have to undergo routine health checks to ensure they are properly equipped to make it through space (via NASA).

Still, a sweet treat here and there has never hurt anyone. Once humans first reached space in 1961, those who dedicated their lives to being an astronaut also had to routinely check which foods could and couldn't make the trip. Chocolate of course, had to make the cut.

The taste of chocolate in zero gravity

Imagine going on a space expedition for weeks or even months on end, far out from the confines of what we know on Earth. You'll probably want to bring some of your favorite food with you to help overcome feelings of homesickness. That's actually not the case with astronauts, as most are put on a strict, well-balanced diet while among the stars (via Smithsonian). But, hey, everyone needs a little treat once in a while, which is where "bonus containers" with some favorites come in handy. Of course, chocolate is included in these. Yuri Gargarin was the first person to orbit the Earth in 1961, according to History, and brought along a "tube containing chocolate sauce," making him the first official astronaut to bring and eat chocolate in space.

Since Gargarin's first expedition, chocolate went on to become a "staple comfort food" during the U.S. Apollo missions, offering astronauts freeze-dried hot chocolate, dehydrated pudding, and vacuum-sealed brownies, according to the Smithsonian. In the years following, M&Ms became the first official "chocolate candy" to make it into space in 1981, and are now part of the standard menu for astronauts in the International Space Station.