DoubleTree Hotels Wants The ISS Astronauts To Bake Cookies

An anonymous reader quotes the Atlantic:
The sight of a cookie had never made me grimace until this one showed up in my email inbox. DoubleTree by Hilton, the hotel chain, was announcing that it would soon send a little oven and a batch of cookie dough to the International Space Station so that astronauts could, for the first time, bake chocolate-chip cookies in space. The cookies, which the hotel gives guests for free when they check in, are “the perfect food to make the cosmos a more welcoming place,” DoubleTree said. Call me a grump, but the endeavor felt gimmicky, the latest in a long line of attempts to promote a company’s product, from Tang to KFC sandwiches, against the dreamy backdrop of outer space…

Charles Bourland, a retired NASA scientist, says the agency never tried to develop a space-friendly oven, because it was just too risky. Bourland spent 30 years developing food for astronauts, starting with the Apollo program, before retiring in 1999. “If something catches on fire and starts burning, you’re going to have to have some way of overcoming that,” Bourland says. “You can’t just open the window and let the smoke out.” But as I spoke with astronauts and others in the space community, my skepticism about the space cookies softened. Bourland says that many astronauts he worked with liked cooking. And that they missed doing it in space…

Those hotel chocolate-chip cookies will be the closest astronauts have come to truly baking something in their high-flying kitchens. NASA says astronauts won’t actually eat the cookies, because they are, technically, a science experiment. The treats will be returned home for examination… For the chocolate-chip cookies, astronauts will receive detailed instructions for using the experimental oven, built by NanoRacks, a space company that helps develop experiments for the ISS. They’ll also get a heavy-duty oven mitt. “It looks like something you get at a hardware store for welders,” says Ian Fichtenbaum, a co-founder of Zero G Kitchen, which paid NanoRacks to develop its oven concept.

A payloads manager at NanoRacks predicts that the cookies will be spherical, reports the Atlantic, which adds “Fingers crossed that they don’t shed too many crumbs, which are free-floating nuisances on the space station, liable to get swept into air filters and even the crew’s lungs….

“The oven cleared NASA safety reviews in the spring and could hitch a ride to the space station on a resupply mission in October.”

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