Just what is NASA Captain Scott Tingle, a UMass Dartmouth graduate, eating while he is in space?

When I think of space food, I think of Moon Pies, Milky Ways, Star Burst's and pastry Moon Rocks, too. But real space food is in a world all by itself. It takes years to perfect mealtime in microgravity, and none of it is served on plates.

On the International Space Station, plates are absolutely useless because everything floats in mid-air.

Since there are no refrigerators or freezers to keep food fresh, the astronauts, like Tingle, don't get to eat many of the meals we are used to here. However, they do eat a version of scrambled eggs, spaghetti, chicken teriyaki, broccoli au gratin, and oatmeal with raisins. During the holidays, they even have turkey, candied yams, cornbread dressing, and other seasonal foods.

The day before he launched into space, I had the honor of chatting with Capt. Tingle about his mission and the tests he would conduct high above the earth. But before our five minutes were up, I had to get in a question or two about food.

I asked the space explorer if he'd like to bring some local favorites like cheese rolls, Gaspar's Linguica and coffee milk with him? Capt. Tingle cracked up laughing, saying not this time around.

Interestingly, do you remember the astronaut who smuggled a corned beef sandwich into space on the Gemini - 3 mission with fellow astronaut and famed practical joker Wally Schirra and Commander Virgil "Gus" Grissom? This famed astronaut spent 835 hours in space and walked on the moon. By all accounts, he had a stellar career that was almost ended because of a corned beef deli sandwich.

John Young, who died last week, got into so much trouble with NASA and with Congress because the crumbs and food particles are a dangerous liability that could gum up equipment or be accidentally inhaled. He was written up and scolded. In retrospect, if you'd like to honor the great astronaut with a corned beef sandwich someday, you'll have to eat it dry. After all the trouble he got into for sneaking the sandwich on board, he grumbled that the sandwich didn't even come with mustard and pickles.

I wonder if Capt. Tingle could use a corned beef sandwich delivered to him in space these days?