Taste in Space

For astronauts, all their food and drink needs to be carried to the International Space Station (ISS). Eating is an important part of crew morale and the one communal time when they share both a meal and talk with each other. The reduced gravity conditions on the ISS and the confined space means that there are physiological and environmental effects when it comes to being able to enjoy the taste of food.
 
In this activity, teams will explore taste sensations on the tongue, and conduct experiments to see which senses influence taste.
 
Mission Question
Can I compare taste sensations on Earth and in space?
 
Skills
Scientific Methodology, Communication, Teamwork, Problem-solving 
Learning Objectives:
  • conduct an experiment to see where on the tongue they can identify 4 of the 5 basic taste sensations
  • conduct a series of taste experiments to appreciate the different senses which influence taste
  • learn how an astronaut experienced the changes in taste intensity before and during a mission
  • learn how reduced gravity affects the human body
Equipment

Part 1:

  • 4 clean containers, at least
  • 1 L in size, labelled 1 to 4
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Grapefruit Juice
  • Drinkable water
  • Plastic Cups
  • Per Group of 2:
    • 4 small disposable cups + water to rinse mouth
    • 4 droppers
    • 1 marker
    • Student worksheets
    • Small hand mirror
    • magnifying glass

Part 2:

  • Per class:
    • Computer with Internet access
    • LCD projector
  • Per Group of 2:
    • 6 closed containers with
      food items
    • 3 droppers or syringes plus
      3 plastic spoons
    • Water
    • Blindfold
    • (Optional) Pair of disposable gloves
    • Student sheet and data sheet for the activity
Time
The duration of this scientific activity can vary, but will average 1-2 class periods.

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