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Japan space agency stirs up public support with heavenly meals

JAXA and Rakuten partner to create recipes using Japanese astronaut food

This dessert combines sweet bean paste -- a Japanese Space Food -- with orange and grapes wrapped in a sheet of pounded rice.

TOKYO -- Japan's space agency has teamed with e-tailer Rakuten to create recipes based on astronaut food.

The recipes, developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, combine food normally reserved for astronauts on the International Space Station with ordinary ingredients.

The project aims to stir up interest in Japan's space program, a task made easier by the success of the country's Hayabusa2 asteroid explorer and the first photo of a black hole.

Three recipes have already been posted on the Rakuten Recipe website, with how-to videos on preparing the dishes scheduled for release this summer on the site and YouTube.

Rakuten invited its users to help dream up the dishes with one key provision: that they contain JAXA-certified foods.

JAXA certifies food products as Japanese Space Foods if they meet certain criteria, such as a shelf life of at least 18 months and reduced risk of food poisoning.

Three recipes were made public on April 12, the United Nations International Day of Human Space Flight.

One is baked bell peppers stuffed with a mixture of beef curry, rice and canned mackerel cooked in miso. Another is for daifuku, a Japanese treat containing sweet bean paste and orange or grapes wrapped in a sheet of mochi, or pounded rice. The last is white rice mixed with canned, soy sauce-seasoned fish and spicy rice crackers.

Bell peppers stuffed with JAXA-certified beef curry

All recipes contain as least one Japanese Space Food, complemented by ingredients used in ordinary cuisine.

JAXA has certified 33 food items, including prepared foods such as curry, rice balls and instant noodles, as well as condiments like soy sauce and mayonnaise.

Japanese Space Foods, all reasonably priced, can be purchased at Spacegoods.net and the online version of the Unibo Space Center Museum Shop, operator of JAXA's souvenir outlets.

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