Our Views: Cajun food on the launching pad _lowres

In this Thursday, March 19, 2015 photo provided by NASA, astronaut Scott Kelly, left, plays pool with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. On Saturday, March 28, 2015, Kelly and Kornienko will travel to the International Space Station to begin a year-long mission living in orbit. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)

This week, American astronaut Scott Kelly is scheduled to begin one of the most ambitious projects that NASA, America’s space agency, has ever undertaken. If he’s lucky, he’ll have a little Louisiana cuisine along to help him along.

Kelly is slated to hitch a ride Thursday on a Russian spacecraft that will take him to the International Space Station. Once there, he’ll plan to stay at the space station for a year — a record for an American astronaut. Scientists want to track Kelly’s experience to better understand how humans handle long periods in space.

A year in space is a long time to be without a decent meal, and as everyone who’s followed the space program since the Kennedy era well knows, astronaut food isn’t known for its gourmet appeal.

Many of us can remember the powdered orange juice made popular by early astronauts and that horrible nutritional goo, squeezed out of a tube like toothpaste, that helped nourish first-generation space travelers.

Luckily, according to NASA food manager Vicki Kloeris, meals have gotten a bit better for today’s astronauts. Contemporary space travelers can now enjoy entrees like spaghetti and meat sauce, sweet and sour chicken and even an occasional Cajun specialty, crawfish étouffée, Kloeris told CBS News.

Kloeris and her team have developed some 200 menu items, and astronauts get to pick their favorites. “It’s not gourmet, but considering everything, it’s pretty good,” she said.

We don’t see the NASA version of crawfish étouffée competing for quality with what comes out of Louisiana’s kitchens. But the news of Cajun food in space seems like a nice gesture toward making life in orbit more enjoyable for America’s astronauts.

We don’t know whether NASA has developed its own version of jambalaya or gumbo, but we do know a few folks in Louisiana who could help the space agency perfect the recipes.