While it’s cool to explore around space and float in zero gravity, astronauts feel that they have a boring diet. Most of the time, they only eat food like bite-sized cubes coated with gelatin as well as freeze-dried foods encased in a special plastic container. That, of course, can be unappetizing especially that it is the diet composition for a long time.
But over the years, there has been a significant development. Researchers have figured out how to grow vegetables in space and use bacteria to make sugars. Now a new project based in Bremen, Germany wants to add variety to the list: bread!
“As space tourism takes off and people spend more time in space we need to allow bread to be made from scratch,” said Sebastian Marcu, founder of Bake In Space, the company behind the project.
Bake In Space targets producing a new dough mixture and oven which works in the International Space Station. The process is slated to be tested in a mission in 2018.
Working with the German Aerospace Centre and food scientists from research organizations, the company aims to develop crumb-free bread. And according to Florian Stukenborg, leader of the dough research from ttz Bremerhaven in Germany, the greatest challenge is on how to come up with the right texture. He said that while bread that is tough and chewy won’t produce crumbs, it is unpalatable.
Meanwhile, space equipment specialist OHB System AG is trying to devise the ideal oven for this project. Matthias Boehme from the Bremen-based company is looking for ways to adapt a convection oven to the constraints of the ISS. Design considerations of the oven are limited when it comes to heat and electricity.
“The solution is an oven with a small volume that retains heat well,” said Boehme.
He and his team are now working hard to develop an oven that should work on just 250 watts, which is a tenth of the power used by a standard oven on Earth. The exterior surfaces should also not exceed 45 deg C.
Boehme added that the team is exploring vacuum baking, which according to experts, would mean that the bread rolls will became more fluffy.
All of the methods will be tested come the European Space Agency’s Horizon mission in April 2018 at the ISS.
Bread on Earth cannot be consumed in the outer space because crumbs could fly everywhere in microgravity, meaning it could get into the astronauts’ eyes or into the electrical panels which could ignite a fire.
That’s what almost happened in NASA’s 1965 Gemini 3 mission when two astronauts smuggled and consumed a corned beef sandwich on board. When it was discovered, bread has been banned in space missions, but there was a food accepted in space nearest to bread: tortilla wraps. Bake In Space is attempting to bring bread back to space.
Source: New Scientist