Gian Luca Rana plays a leading role in the “Italian Food in Space” project with a gourmet and nutritionally balanced food programme, created in his “Casa Innovazione Rana” research and development hub, exclusively for the astronaut crew of the Ax-3 space mission

Alongside the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Forestry and the Italian Air Force, Rana Group will take part in the preparatory training period of the crew for the space mission, which involves Colonel Walter Villadei. Every day, the Rana team of chefs will prepare recipes using top-quality ingredients sourcing from all over Italy, combining the know-how of their researchers and food technologists with the experience of “Famiglia Rana” Restaurant, 1 MICHELIN Guide Star.

Washington, December 2023 – Gian Luca Rana, and the Rana Group play an active part of the ‘Italian Food in Space’ project alongside the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Sovereignty and Forestry and with the collaboration of the Italian Air Force, with the aim of supporting the candidature of Italian cuisine as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The project – presented in December in Washington, it is part of the activities relating to Italian participation in the mission Ax-3 mission of Axiom Space. Scheduled for January 2024, the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will take Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei to the International Space Station, together with a crew of three other astronauts.

Gian Luca Rana and the innovative capacity of our R&D

In this context, thanks to the innovative and technological capacity of our R&D, established by Gian Luca Rana, CEO of Rana Group that leads the company over 35 years, and the greatest knowledge of Italian gastronomic culture, the Rana Group has been chosen to prepare meals for the crew of the Ax-3 space mission, coming from Italy, Spain, Sweden and Turkey, during its preparatory training period, a strategic preparation phase before the launch. Through the close collaboration with the Rana Group, in fact, the astronauts on the mission will be able to taste the excellence of Italian cuisine, in whose recipes tradition and innovation come together.

The Rana Group has accepted the important challenge and has thus combined, in its research and development hub “Casa Innovazione Rana”, on the one hand the know-how of its own researchers and food technologists and, on the other, the experience of the Ristorante “Famiglia Rana”, awarded 1 Michelin star in 2022. Thus was born a menu that represents the perfect combination of these two closely interconnected corporate souls.

Gian Luca Rana and the Italian gastronomic excellence and experience

“We are thrilled to have taken part in the ‘Italian Food in Space’ project, which allows us to continue our mission of proudly spreading Italian gastronomic excellence and experience throughout the world and beyond,” comments Giovanni Rana Jr., Innovation Manager of the Rana Group. “This objective, together with our natural propulsion towards innovation, has always been in our DNA which, in over 60 years of history, has led us to be a leader in the fresh food market, with a global presence in almost 70 countries”.

“Italian cuisine – Gian Luca Rana, CEO of Rana Group says – represents the history and identity of our country, and we believe that to enhance and promote it even more effectively, it’s fundamental a virtuous collaboration between the public and private sectors. This is why we have decided to stand by the Italian institutions in this project, supporting this historic achievement in which Italy plays a key role.”

Gian Luca Rana and “Italian Food in Space” project: what is it about

The challenge was to create a specific food plan that was nutritionally balanced and at the same time gourmet, with top-quality ingredients sourcing from all over Italy. The Rana chefs will have the task of cooking these dishes on a daily basis, for the duration of the training preparation phase for the astronauts and the technical crew. These weeks leading up to the launch are crucial to the success of the mission, as the crew reaches the peak of physical and psychological preparation, in respect to which food is a key element.

Colonel Walter Villadei explained: ‘The initiative to have the astronauts eat ‘Italian’ during the pre-flight preparatory training session is the first step towards seeing the astronauts’ diet of the future based on the extraordinary and varied Italian tradition. Indeed, food is not only a necessity, but a valuable resource in an environment that prepares us for the high psychophysical stress of space flight. The right combination of nutrients, quality and taste becomes part of a broader strategy to prepare and maintain astronauts’ operations and a valid countermeasure to the effects of radiation, microgravity and oxidative processes.

However, it is important to remember that bringing Italian food to the Moon and – why not – to Mars in the future will require new technologies and further scientific research. This project is a demonstration of the importance of the Ax-3 mission, to which I have the honour of contributing, which aims to put together a winning recipe: technology, innovation and Italian excellence.”

In addition to being an energy boost, the food plan developed by the Rana team represents an extraordinary opportunity to share our Italian gastronomic heritage with the entire international Ax-3 crew, through a journey of iconic flavours and a wide variety of regional recipes combined with contemporary tastes.

The Ax-3 mission will give Italy the opportunity to enhance scientific, technological and operational skills related to human activities in space, through microgravity experiments coordinated by the Italian Air Force and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), involving research centres, universities and companies, and giving further impetus to Italy’s great operational, medical and technological skills applied to the space sector. In this, the Rana Group has proudly confirmed its commitment to collaborating with public institutions with the common goal of undertaking initiatives of collective interest for the enhancement of Italy’s gastronomic, cultural and scientific heritage.