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After Conquering Earth, Instant Noodles Make Space Debut

Momofuku Ando, Nissin food products chairman and popularly known as maker of instant noodles displays the instant noodles for astronauts called 'Space Ram' during a press conference at the company's Instant Noodle Museum in Osaka, 27 July 2005. Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi brought with her the first 'space noodle' aboard Space Shuttle Discovery 26 July. AFP Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno
by Yoshikazu Tsuno
Osaka, Japan (AFP) Jul 27, 2005
After conquering Earth, instant noodles have now headed into space with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who brought a new zero-gravity version aboard the US shuttle Discovery.

Nissin Food, whose invention of instant noodles sparked a 65 billion pack-a-year global industry, developed a special ball-shaped version of the usually dangling noodle that space-travellers can eat easily with a fork.

Space Ram, unveiled by the firm hours after Noguchi and his six fellow astronauts blasted off Wednesday, comes in four different flavors -- soy sauce, miso, curry and pork broth.

Noguchi helped test the early stages of the astro ramen, which astronauts can open and eat normally rather than suck through a tube like other space meals.

The soup is thick enough to prevent spilling, Nissin said, while the noodle balls retain their shape after being re-heated.

Boiling water is not used in space so Space Ram can be heated with water of 70 degrees Celsius (160 Fahrenheit), thanks to a unique blend of flour and starch, it said.

On hand for the unveiling of Space Ram in Osaka was Nissin founder Momofuku Ando, who invented the world's first instant noodle in 1958 and came up with the noodles in a cup version in 1971.

His Cup Noodles have swept the planet -- and been widely replicated -- with the Nissin group now boasting annual sales exceeding 300 billion yen (2.7 billion dollars).

Nissin have now patented the space-noodle technology but for the moment there are no plans to put it on -- or even floating above -- grocery store shelves here on earth.

The firm put a 10-member team in charge of developing Space Ram with help from Japan's space program.

Ramen's entry into the stars was only part of the excitement in Japan over Noguchi, who is the sixth Japanese to enter space.

"With that knowledge, technique, brains and physical strength, he is a superman in all respects," said Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who the government said may chat with the ramen-eating astronaut while in space.

"I wonder how they manage to do that," Koizumi said of the astronauts. "It is great for human beings to go above and beyond."

The Discovery is the first US shuttle mission since the Columbia disaster in 2003 and its launch had already been delayed from July 13.

Giant outdoor screens in Tokyo showed the liftoff live at midnight Japanese time, with spectators clapping with joy and snapping pictures with their mobile telephones.

In the western Japanese town of Taishi, around 150 people including former classmates at Ikaruga Elementary School where the future astronaut graduated gathered at the town hall.

When Discovery took off, the crowd opened an ornamental ball that showed the message, "Launch succeeds!"

"Go for it, Mr. Noguchi!" the children shouted in unison as they held up pictures with space themes, according to a town official.

The 40-year-old was already inspired to be an astronaut when he was a first grader.

Noguchi, then an enthusiastic fan of the British television series Thunderbirds, wrote in a composition that he wanted to be "a rocket pilot as I would be able to know a lot about space."

Noguchi is set to make three space walks lasting some 20 hours with teammate Stephen Robinson during the 12-day mission.

All rights reserved. � 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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