When Korea’s first astronaut blasts off into space next year he just might be bringing along some space-age kimchi with him.

To be sure, there is a different kind of “space-race” back here on Earth with Korean food manufacturers competing to whip up some space-edible foods for Ko San, Korea’s first astronaut who will lift off in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft next April.

“The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute is working on kimchi with domestic food maker CJ and instant noodles with Nongshim. The Korean Food Research Institute is also developing space-safe fried kimchi, hot pepper paste and soy bean paste, rice, red ginseng and green tea with Daesang and Ottogi. Russia will evaluate the safety and storability of the foods. If they pass the tests, traditional Korean food will be served to the astronauts on the spacecraft.

As the food makers race to create their space-friendly edibles, there are mixed opinions about the best way to sterilize it. Food makers working with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute argue that freeze-dried foods don’t taste good. But those working with the Korean Food Research Institute insist that consumers don’t like irradiated foods.

However, there is a common view that developing space food will lead to enhancing the technological competitiveness of the Korean food industry. Currently researchers are developing space-edible hot pepper paste in tubes and soybean paste in the form of instant soup. Preparing these foods is costly, so it remains to be seen whether the space-safe foods will be made available to consumers.”

Aside from this history-making event—Korea’s first astronaut in space—what I am wondering is does he really need to bring kimchi along with him and can’t anyone go for a few days without it? After all, we’re talking about space here and not some trip to some exotic Southeast Asia locale. Sure, I love my kimchi, too and every time I go back to the States, I miss it a lot but this “space kimchi” smacks a bit of nationalism not to mention the potential public relations bonanza for the company that makes it. Wonder if someone has also thought about some “space choco-pies?”

Fair enough, we had the same thing with Tang back in the 60s. Except I doubt the Tang us kids drank here on Earth was anything like the Tang the astronauts supposedly drank in space. That stuff was some high-octane sugar buzz that had us bouncing off the walls.

Finally, I don’t think I would be too radiant (and then again, maybe I would be) if some agency like the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute was working with the food industry to make this “space kimchi” and other space edibles. Hmm…irradiated kimchi. Not so sure if I like the sound of that.