Why was it so hard to bake a cookie in space?



I just red a article talking about the first cookie being baked in the space station (that was a while ago), but I don’t understand why it wasn’t done before and why is such a big deal now. It looks like a company put a lot of effort just to send this cookie to be baked! And also they were not able to eat it. I would love o understand more about that! Thank you!

In: Technology

Pretty much all of the things you take for granted about cooking here on Earth are different in microgravity, and doubly so because of the safety concerns on a space station.

In microgravity, there’s nothing to hold a cookie to a pan. A system needed to be devised to keep the cookie stationary so it didn’t float around inside the oven. Crumbs are also a big risk in space. They don’t fall, so as they float around the station, they can get lodged into sensitive equipment or even accidentally get inhaled by the astronauts or get in their eyes. A system needed to be devised to minimize crumbs.

Heat is a huge deal in space for 2 reasons. First, a fire would be far more catastrophic on the space station than on Earth, so an oven needed to be designed that would eliminate any risk of fire. Heat rejection is also a big deal, because the electronics in the station generate a great deal of heat, and that needs to be accounted for. You can’t just open the oven and let it cool off, the station’s climate is very tightly controlled.

Even the chemistry of baking in space is different. On Earth, we rely on gravity to allow dough to rise. In microgravity, the gas bubbles don’t rise, so everything is kind of clumped together. What would that look like? Would it be palatable? Would it hold together or just crumble? Would it heat evenly? We have to test to see.

As for why they couldn’t eat it, there are 2 reasons. The first is that if they eat it, they can’t send it back down to Earth to be analyzed. We want to know how well the oven works, and we can’t do that if there’s no cookie to analyze. We also want to make sure this unusual cooking method fully cooks things. We don’t want astronauts getting food poisoning in space.