The space shuttle never tasted sweeter: Christer Fuglesang catches a candy as Frank De Winne watches (NASA TV)
September 7, 2009 — Before boarding a space shuttle to leave the International Space Station, Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang shared how "sweet" a spacecraft the orbiter could be.
During a special live broadcast held with Swedish officials and celebrities early on Monday morning, Fuglesang and fellow European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Frank De Winne from Belgium let loose small space shuttle-shaped candies before catching them with their mouths, Pac-Man style.
"Frank is missing Belgian food, but I have some Swedish candy for you," reported Fuglesang in Swedish. "These Swedish race cars floating around in space."
Fuglesang and De Winne reveal the candy shuttles (NASA TV)
Fuglesang referred to the Scandinavian shuttles as "race cars" because of their heritage. The gummy candies are popular in Sweden but not as spacecraft: marketed as "Ahlgrens bilar" ("Ahlgren's Cars") the marshmallow-like but chewier sweets are usually found in the form of cars. In fact, they are promoted as "the world's most sold car" by the Leaf Candy Company, which bought the Swedish confectionery Ahlgrens in 1993, 40 years after the cars' introduction on store shelves.
The company learned earlier this year that the pink, white and green cars were a favorite of Fuglesang's and after being approached to provide some for his space flight, decided to do something special.
"They even made special edition, which is not cars, but they are in the shape of the shuttles," Fuglesang said in a pre-launch interview with collectSPACE. "So we will have candy shuttles to enjoy in space."
According to Swedish media reports, Leaf produced just 100 bags of the Ahlgrens shuttles, and 33 were given to Fuglesang. In his pre-flight blog, Fuglesang said he gave the candies to NASA's food lab to prepare for flight, along with other Swedish foods.
"Mostly sweets!" he wrote.
Ahlgrens bilar: "Nu i rymden" (Credit: collectSPACE)
Each of the Ahlgrens bilar bags were labeled as limited to 100 and included the Swedish phrase "Nu i rymden", or "Now in space". An illustration on the label depicts three cartoon versions of the gummy cars aboard a three-finned rocket.
The Leaf Candy Company is not selling the shuttle edition and doesn't plan to make any more. Many of the leftover 67 packages were given to Swedish media and bloggers, who in turn awarded the packages to their readers.
The STS-128 mission, now in its 11th day, is Fuglesang's second space flight. The first Swede in space, he made two spacewalks earlier in the mission and, added to his previous three in 2006, he has set the record for the most outings into the vacuum of space by any astronaut of a nationality other than American or Russian.
Fuglesang, along with his six STS-128 crew mates were scheduled to bid farewell to De Winne and his five station crew mates tonight, closing the hatches between space shuttle Discovery and the orbiting outpost in preparation for undocking tomorrow. Discovery is set to land back on Earth on September 10, weather permitting.