It falls to NASA's Advanced Food Technology Project not only to ensure that the food astronauts eat in space is safe, nutritious, and palatable, but also to see that it's properly packaged for spaceflight, storage, and weightless consumption. While the AFTP is developing ways to keep food fresh for manned space exploration, they offer us a look back at meal trays from the missions of yesteryear, as well as what space food packaging looks like today.

All photos from NASA.

AFT is researching ways to create better packaging to reduce spoilage and nutrition loss, and it's also looking into how food might actually be prepared on manned exploration missions. For the time being, however, folks living and working in space eat pre-packaged dishes, and it's fascinating to see how the packaging and service designs have changed over the years (especially the Skylab contraption). The modern natural forms food packaging does a lot to remove the sterile appearance of the space dining experience, even if you're still noshing on cookies and almonds.

Advanced Food Technology Project [Johnson Center via Nerdcore]