It’s a delicious possibility that could make it possible for astronauts to wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread in space.
Slated for launch to the International Space Station (ISS) next year, “Bake In Space” will test a new dough mixture and oven specially created for the ISS and surviving microgravity conditions.
Crumb-Free, Fresh Out Of The Oven
While improvements have been made on ready-made space meals over the years, food and nourishment on long-duration missions such as a trip to the moon or planet Mars are a different matter. This is why NASA and other groups have started to explore new methods, such as being able to grow vegetables in space.
NASA has in fact dovetailed the human mission to Mars with a plan to develop a reliable food supply to sustain human crews for longer periods on Mars. Programs such as the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) are preparing the ground for growing vegetables outside earthly environments.
This is why Bake In Space, a company based in Bremen in Germany, also ventured into the ambitious project. The planned specimen: the typical weekend German bread roll, the firm noted on its website.
“As space tourism takes off and people spend more time in space we need to allow bread to be made from scratch,” said Bake In Space founder Sebastian Marcu in a New Scientist report.
Their specific goal in the project, which was presented at the UK Space Conference in Manchester earlier this month, is to make it crumb-free, as bread can prove life-threatening out in space.
Back on the 1965 Gemini 3 mission of NASA, a corned beef sandwich was smuggled on board, and the crumbs flew everywhere. These crumbs are a threat in microgravity: they can get into the eye or into electrical systems where fire could start.
Now, Bake In Space is working with food scientists as well as the German Aerospace Centre to create a dough mixture and process that will create crumb-free bread. Texture poses quite a challenge, as tough, chewy bread may not produce crumbs but would also likely be less palatable.
The oven design plays a role in addressing this issue, as German specialists are developing a convection oven that can adapt to ISS conditions. Exterior surfaces, for instance, should not exceed 45 degrees Celsius, so the oven should retain heat properly.
The company will blast the baking experiment in April 2018 to the ISS via the Horizon mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). It will be with astronaut Alexander Gerst.
Ground personnel will receive live video feeds from inside the oven, so astronauts won’t have to watch over their loaves while on duty. The dough’s initial batches too will be pre-baked here on the planet.
Eventually, the team is keen on also exploring sourdough bread and selling original space rolls here on Earth.
Spectators couldn’t help but get fascinated over the nice-smelling prospects. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Jennifer Levasseur believed freshly baked bread on board the ISS “could energize astronauts” both physically and psychologically.
New York-based baker Miranda Bucciero told Gizmodo it’s a truly awesome possibility.
“[B]rownies would probably work the best — the dense fudgy/chewy type of brownie,” she quipped.