Why it matters: Long-duration space missions of the future could greatly benefit from the ability of astronauts to bake fresh meals onboard the International Space Station. The activity will not only result in a greater variety of flavor and better nutrition but could also bring psychological and physiological benefits for astronauts as they learn and experiment their way around cooking in space.
When the mood kicks in for dessert, a freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie can taste out of this world. And soon it will be, as the 12th Northrop Grumman cargo resupply mission carries 8,200 lb (3,700 kg) of crew supplies, vehicle hardware and scientific research equipment, including a Zero-G Oven and Hilton's DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie dough to the International Space Station.
The cookies will be the first food baked in space as part of an experiment that will provide "insight into the effect of microgravity on the process of baking as well as insight into basic heat transfer properties in microgravity." It will also explore the safety implications of cooking food in space as well as compare the effects of baking in a microgravity environment to that of Earth's.
Sadly though, the astronauts won't be able to taste the cookies that they bake due to the oven being in its testing stage. However, DoubleTree sent some premade cookies along to help with the temptation.
NASA notes that any samples opened in space must also be crumb-free and are therefore required to be sealed to prevent the potential risk of producing crumbs, which are considered Foreign Object Debris (FOD) and can cause unscheduled maintenance on the ISS.
A special tray was also designed with partner NanoRacks that slides into a rail system in the oven to keep the cookies in place and contain the crumbs as they bake. Once the samples cool down, the astronauts will take pictures and return the cookies back to Earth, where the cookie monster likely awaits them, along with scientists who'll be performing further analysis.
Other equipment sent in the resupply cargo mission includes carbon fiber samples by Lamborghini, the Italian automotive company, and a safety vest to protect against radiation. The cargo was expected to reach the ISS yesterday, which means freshly-baked cookies on the ISS anytime soon.