Astronauts on the International Space Station are about to get a special delivery: a new oven for baking chocolate chip cookies.
The next delivery of space station supplies — which launched over the weekend — includes the Zero G Oven. Chocolate chip cookie dough is already up there on the ISS, waiting to pop into this small electric oven designed for zero gravity.
Sample cookies baked just before lift-off back on Earth are also packed on the supply delivery with the oven on Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus capsule, for the six station astronauts.
The experiment explores the possibility of making freshly baked goods for space travellers. With NASA planning ahead for trips to the moon and Mars, homemade food takes on heightened* importance. What’s in orbit now are really just food warmers.
The oven has been developed by a US company called Zero G Kitchen, which aims to create a kitchen in space, starting with the oven.
“You’re in space. I mean, you want to have the smell of cookies,” said Zero G Kitchen’s Jordana Fichtenbaum. “The kitchen is really sort of the heart of the home to me, and the oven is kind of where it’s at. So just to make (space) more comfortable and make it more pleasant, more delicious.”
Out-of-this-world baking can also entice* the public and make space exploration more relatable, according to her husband, Ian Fichtenbaum, who works in the space business.
Also collaborating on this first-of-its-kind space bake: Texas-based Nanoracks, which designed and built the oven and arranged the flight, and hotel chain DoubleTree, which supplied the same cookie dough it uses for its hotel welcome cookies.
“That’s the beauty of this to me,” Jordana Fichtenbaum said. “It’s the same recipe and the same thing that you get on Earth.”
Previous station crews have created their own pizzas using flatbread and warmed them in the galley*. Astronauts have attempted other creative cuisine*, mixing and heating chopped onions and garlic, for instance, and whipping up salads from station-grown greens. Results have been mixed.
The cookie baking will be slow going — the oven can bake just one cookie at a time, and it could be weeks before the astronauts have time to try it out.
Five raw cookies have been in a space station freezer since the summer. Each is in its own individual clear silicone pouch. The oven’s maximum heat is 177C, double the temperature of the US and Russian food warmers aboard the space station. The cylindrical* oven uses electric heating elements.
Nanorack manager Mary Murphy anticipates* a baking time of 15-20 minutes a cookie at 163C. The aroma* of baking cookies should fill the lab each time a cookie comes out of the oven and is placed on an attached cooling rack, she said.
The first cookie will be the real test; it could end up looking like a blob or a mini pancake in the absence of gravity. Three of the space-baked cookies will be returned to Earth for testing.
“Baking doesn’t always go according to plan*, even on the ground,” said Murphy.
- heightened: increased
- entice: attract or lure
- galley: a ship-style small, narrow kitchen
- cuisine: style of food and cooking
- cylindrical: cylinder-shaped
- anticipates: expects
- aroma: smell
- according to plan: following the plan
- How many astronauts are on the space station waiting for the oven?
- Is the cookie dough the same or different to cookie dough on Earth?
- What are two foods the astronauts have tried making before?
- What is the maximum temperature of the new oven?
- How many of the cookies are coming back to Earth?
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1. Explaining gravity
The reason this baking experiment is a big deal, and the reason it has never been done before is because there is no gravity on the International Space Station. Show your understanding of this concept by:
(a) Drawing a diagram and writing a paragraph explaining what gravity is.
(b) Writing a paragraph explaining what would happen if an astronaut tried to bake cookies on the ISS using the usual method and equipment.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science
There are six astronauts on the ISS. There are five raw cookies in the freezer. Three of the cookies are to be sent back to Earth … that leaves 2 cookies for 6 people. Oh dear.
Think of a creative way to decide who will get to eat the two cookies. (For the purposes of this activity, the cookies may not be split.) Explain your method and why this is the fairest way you can think of to decide who will get them.
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Critical and Creative Thinking
That freshly baked smell
It seems we are getting closer and closer to space travel and accommodation being like we never left Earth … aside for zero gravity of course.
But for the current astronauts, imagine the mood in the space station every time a batch of cookies (or other baked goods) come out of the oven.
Our senses are very powerful, especially scent.
Write a description of the senses poem about an astronaut baking and then eating fresh cookies for the first time in space.
For a description of the senses poem the standard layout is, (in any order);
- I see
- I smell
- I hear
- I feel
- I taste
And then you can conclude the poem with:
My world is … OR I feel …
If you want to push your writing skills, instead of simply writing ‘I see’, describe it. This is called Show Don’t Tell.
For example: The cool breeze brushed across the back of my neck – Touch
HAVE YOUR SAY: What would you cook in space if you could invent a way to do it?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.