ISS astronauts baked DoubleTree cookies in microgravity for science

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NASA astronauts bake DoubleTree cookies aboard ISS.
Image: NASA | Christina Koch

Anyone who has stayed at a DoubleTree hotel knows that the cookies you receive upon check-in are some of the best in the world. With plenty of chocolate chips, hints of brown sugar, and a golden-brown bake, there isn’t much that can top them. Now NASA astronauts have baked DoubleTree cookies aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time ever.

Sadly, they won’t get to taste the fruits of their labor. The cookies will be sent back to Earth for more analysis. On the bright side, the crew does have a stash of pre-baked cookies to enjoy.

Microgravity Oven

Baking a batch of cookies is actually pretty simple. In fact, it is one of the first things that many bakers learn to perfect. In space, however, it’s a much different story. The microgravity environment of the ISS complicates every aspect of the cookie-making process.

The crew baked their cookies in a special oven sent to the station back in November. It was made by New York-based startup Zero G Kitchen and space technology company Nanoracks. The oven arrived aboard a Cygnus cargo spacecraft. DoubleTree by Hilton supplied the ingredients for its world-famous cookie.

The cylindrical oven operates a little differently than the boxy oven that people are familiar with on Earth. Typically, fans circulate rising hot air throughout the box, causing the cookie inside to heat up evenly and expand upwards. In space, there is no “up.”

So, to negate the effects of zero gravity, the ISS oven is lined with heaters on every side. To keep it from floating away, astronauts put the cookie in a tray that traps the ingredients and keeps them in place.

Successful Baking

European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano had the honors of baking the cookies. Over the course of a few days, he found varying degrees of success before eventually baking a perfect cookie.

He said, “The samples are now stored in a freezer to be returned to the Earth for analysis. We’ll see how it worked!”

Astronaut Christina Koch shared a photo of the crew’s cookies on Twitter.

Not allowing the astronauts to try the cookies wasn’t just a cruel powerplay, but rather it is out of concern for their safety. Considering that this is the first time that something has been baked in microgravity, no one knows what the results are like. That’s why the cookies will make the voyage back to Earth to undergo some tests.

However, should that testing show that nothing is wrong with them, future astronauts might be able to enjoy freshly baked cookies during their space missions. Moreover, visitors to the ISS could be greeted with a DoubleTree cookie just like hotel visitors here on Earth.

Mary Murphy, a senior internal payloads manager for Nanoracks said, “What are we going to do when we’re in those experiences [deep space missions], and what are we going to need for those people to have a good experience and to be able to perform all these tasks that we’re going to ask of them… One of the things that came to us as an opportunity was looking at baking in space.”

For astronauts living aboard the ISS for months at a time, a little taste of home would be highly welcome, and nothing says home like a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies.

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