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Pillsbury Played A Key Role In The Creation Of Space Food

Pillsbury doughboy Thanksgiving float
Pillsbury doughboy Thanksgiving float - Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Pillsbury: You probably know it well from its biscuits and crescent rolls, as well as its commercials featuring a small dough man giggling when he's poked in the belly (big mood). The brand has branched into things like tubed banana bread and waffle sticks in the past few decades, with varying results. For better or worse, it's been one of the iconic American food brands since its founding in Minneapolis in 1869, right there with Nabisco, Nestle, Kellogg's, Kraft, and Coca-Cola.

But it has had more of an impact on American society than you might realize. In particular, Pillsbury's role in the development of space food -- which became that funny dehydrated stuff occasionally sold to broader society as a novelty item -- was far more extensive than most people know. As the creators of the original food cubes for astronauts, it's entirely possible we couldn't have won the space race without the efforts of one man in particular: Dr. Howard Bauman.

Read more: 14 Of The Oldest Cereals Still On Shelves

Bauman Developed High-Energy Food Sticks To Solve The Problem

packages of space food
packages of space food - Leonhard Simon/Getty Images

By the early 1960s, the space race between the United States and the U.S.S.R. was in full swing, with President John F. Kennedy exhorting Americans to reach for the stars. The Russians broke nearly all the milestones early, sending the first satellite into space in 1957 with Sputnik and the first human being in 1961 with Yuri Gagarin. Desperate to catch up and surpass their Russian counterparts, NASA really dialed in its game after Sputnik, seeking to advance every aspect of its space technology. One of these was food; to that end, it turned to Pillsbury and Dr. Howard Bauman.

At the time, Bauman was the chief food technologist for Pillsbury -- a real position that still exists for many companies today, so if you've ever wondered who comes up with the wackiest food creations on shelves, now you know. Whatever he created would have to be a high-energy, non-perishable, easily storable snack. Oh, and it would also have to fit through the (at the time) small, airtight opening in an astronaut's helmet. No problem, thought Bauman; time for some food sticks that were basically sweet Slim Jims.

Bauman's Food Sticks Were Even Sold To The General Public

tubes of Pillsbury crescent rolls
tubes of Pillsbury crescent rolls - Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock

We take for granted that food in stick form is just kind of a regular thing, but in the early '60s, they were still pretty new, as fish sticks only debuted on the market in 1953. But they made perfect sense, given the space constraints he was working with. It didn't take his team long to get them in order, either: In 1962, Scott Carpenter became the first person to eat solid food (in flavors like figs, dates, and chocolate) in space thanks to Bauman's space sticks.

The product actually eventually had commercial applications, too. In 1969, with the space craze at a fever pitch as a result of the Apollo missions to the moon, Pillsbury started selling its repurposed product to the general public. The product's name was changed to Food Sticks in 1971, but it lasted until the early '80s. The era of food sticks didn't last all that long, but for a minute, you could eat like the first American astronauts.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.