Baking in Space

The story of the first cookie born into the final frontier


Clearly inferior cookies baked via a standard TERRESTRIAL oven.

Brenna Wright and Lillian Ruelle

On Saturday, Nov. 2, a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launched into orbit in order to deliver crew members and supplies to the International Space Station. Among complex space equipment, including a vest designed to protect against space radiation, there was an oven sent into space for one simple purpose—to bake a cookie.

The process of baking a cookie in space is much more complex than on Earth. As it has never been done before, many special adjustments had to be made to account for the weightless environment. Firstly, the oven had to be specially designed to accommodate for weightless circumstances; a convection oven won’t function in orbit because hot air will not rise. Then there’s the question of how the dough will cook, particularly the shape that it will take. Because of the weightless environment, the dough won’t sit on a sheet pan like it does on Earth, and it may even break into several pieces. So, NanoRacks and Zero-G Kitchen had to devise some way to keep the dough together and in one place.

The final version of the first oven sent to space is cylindrical and equipped with several adjustments in order to make space-baking successful. The engineers included “electrical heating elements” placed on the inside of the cylinder so that a pocket of heated air surrounds the cookie. Additionally, the cookies are individually packaged in a silicone pouch with aluminum edges. Only one cookie can be baked at a time, but the astronauts are appreciative nonetheless. 

The purpose of this effort (while seemingly trivial) is to continue to investigate the likelihood and ability of humans to live in space—particularly on Mars. One part of having a high quality of life in a weightless environment is being able to prepare hot and nutritious meals. The goal of baking this first cookie is to get closer to finalizing a fully functional version of the space oven. Zero-G Kitchen is hopeful that they can create an entire kitchen setup that operates in the weightless environment. My only hope is that they start working on a pizza oven next.