DoubleTree by Hilton will make history when its signature chocolate chip cookies become the first-ever food baked in space.
Everything to whip up a batch of the hospitality company’s delicious treats arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on Nov. 4 via an incoming Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft. The capsule delivered the global brand’s cookie dough along with a Zero G Oven on its NG-12 commercial resupply mission.
Space station residents eat a variety of food. Currently, they can enjoy fruit, brownies, peanut butter, spaghetti, chicken, beef, and more.
According to NASA, space food comes in disposable packages. Because there are no refrigerators in space, astronauts must properly store and prepare food to avoid spoilage.
Thanks to a partnership between DoubleTree by Hilton, Zero G Kitchen, and Nanoracks, the Expedition 61 crew will make history in baking the first batch of fresh chocolate chip cookies in space. The team will also test Zero G Kitchen’s prototype oven in the endeavor.
“Not only are our cookies the first-ever food item to be baked in space, but we are going to be the first hospitality or hotel company to be doing anything on the International Space Station. To say that we are the first is huge for us,” said Shawn McAteer, senior vice president and global head for DoubleTree by Hilton, in an interview with collectSPACE.com.
The company posted a fun teaser video about its interstellar experiment on YouTube last summer.
Space Baking Considerations
However, popping a cookie sheet into the Zero G Oven and baking warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies in space presents unique challenges.
“When we first talked about it, we were not even sure it is possible,” said Mary Murphy, senior internal payloads manager at Nanoracks, in a pre-launch press conference last week. “Everyone knows how baking on the ground works, but how do you translate that to a zero-g experience?”
Murphy asked more critical questions in a press release. Namely, “What will the cookies look like? Will they bake out equally in all directions and form a sphere, or stay flat?”
Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that hot air doesn’t rise in microgravity. Therefore, Nanoracks had to cook up a way to transfer heat to items the ISS crew bakes.
The Zero G Oven uses electric heating elements around a cylindrical chamber to create warm air. Similar to a toaster, the air surrounds and heats food at its center.
Getting cookie dough hot enough in the space oven to bake it is quite an accomplishment. However, keeping the dough anchored and preventing it from floating around as it cooks is another challenge.
According to Space.com, a silicone pouch with an aluminum frame holds the “puck-shaped” cookie dough. The frame serves as a baking tray and filter. This system allows hot air to escape without sending out crumbs. Though seemingly harmless, free-floating food particles could clog space station vents or damage equipment.
Enjoying Ready-Made Cookies
DoubleTree by Hilton’s guests enjoy the brand’s trademark warm chocolate chip cookies upon hotel check-in. The company sent enough dough to the ISS to bake five space cookies. They also launched a batch of pre-baked cookies in a special commemorative tin.
“We did not want to deprive any of the astronauts of having the opportunity to eat some freshly-baked cookies, so in addition to the dough that they’re going to bake in the oven, we are sending a tin of our cookies up as part of the launch as well,” Kristen Savoy, senior manager for global brand communications at Hilton, told collectSPACE.
Members of the public can purchase the collectible container on the hotel franchise’s Cookies in Space website. Now celebrating 100 years in the hospitality industry, the brand is also featuring space-themed recipes for its annual cookie cookbook.
Overall, the Zero G Oven experiment will explore how microgravity affects baking. The study also aims to provide astronauts with fresh-baked, flavorful food options.
After the ISS crew bakes the cookies, they will send three of them back to NASA for further testing.