Space food, shuttle tiles for sale by NASA

The US space agency is offering schools and universities a special deal on astronaut cuisine and heat tiles from the now extinct space shuttles, just over 20 dollars a pack, NASA said Monday.

"The lightweight tiles protected the shuttles from extreme temperatures when the orbiters re-entered the Earth's atmosphere," NASA said in a statement.

"The food, which was precooked or processed so that refrigeration is unnecessary, is ready to eat or could be prepared simply by adding water or by heating."

Since the items are government property, the price to mail them was set at $23.40 for a package of "Tiles for Teachers" and $28.03 for a three-pack of food items, "Space Food for Schools."

Each shuttle had about 21,000 lightweight heat shield tiles to protect the spacecraft from searing heat which could reach 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,650 Celsius).

As part of the offer, NASA posted online a series of three different age-appropriate lesson plans for children seven to 18, but none contained a mention of the 2003 shuttle Columbia disaster.

Columbia disintegrated on its way back to Earth, killing all seven astronauts on board. Engineers later discovered that a damaged part of the thermal protection shield in the wing area was to blame.

NASA has faced mounting uncertainty over its future human spaceflight goals, and US lawmakers have threatened to slash its budget for other costly ventures such as the multi-billion dollar James Webb Space Telescope.

The space shuttle program ended in July after three decades, leaving Russia as the only nation capable of bringing humans to the International Space Station until a US alternative can be built by private industry in the coming years.