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Astronauts Bake Cookies in Space

Credit: Hilton

Cosmic chocolate chip-flavor.

Something we Earthlings don’t often realize about living in space is that there are a lot of little things we take for granted that become much more difficult in the absence of gravity. This includes stuff like sleeping, eating, using the bathroom, and based on a new experiment from the ISS, baking cookies.

Zero G Kitchen, a company that develops specialized peripherals for cooking in space, sent the world’s first zero-gravity oven up to the ISS in November. The main chamber of the oven has a silicon frame that holds floating food in place while heating coils centralize the heat. To test this nifty device, pre-made cookie dough was provided by DoubleTree by Hilton and sent up to the station via Nanoracks. The head chef for the experiment, European astronaut Luca Parmitano, baked one cookie’s worth of dough in the oven at a time, while her associate, NASA astronaut Christina Koch, watched over them. The problem with using an oven in space is that heating coils need a lot of energy, and energy isn’t something the ISS has in a surplus. To compensate for this, the oven heats up extremely slowly; several cookies were prepared with cooking times ranging from 25 minutes to a little over two hours. After some experimentation, it was found that the ideal cooking time for the zero-gravity oven (at least as far as cookies are concerned) is 75 minutes.

Sadly, since the cookies were part of the experiment, the astronauts didn’t get to eat them. They were quickly vacuum-packed and sent back to Earth in a Dragon capsule, where they await food science tests in cold storage. As a happy bonus, however, after the cookies were finished, the entire station smelled like warm dough and chocolate chips for the entire rest of the day. If the food scientists give the green light on the space cookies, astronauts may have a fascinating new avenue of study aboard the ISS. I wonder if they could bake a cake…