Astronauts May Soon Bake Bread in Space

The breadless days aboard the International Space Station may soon hurtle into the past.

Next time you breathe in the heady scent of fresh bread, spare a thought for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. They are living in a bread-free zone, compelled to cobble together sandwiches using tortillas. (Not that there’s anything wrong with tortillas.)

This culinary constraint, though it may seem crummy to crusty bread fans, is in fact so that these stalwart space travelers do not have to suffer the potential deadly effects of bread crumbs, which can float around and lodge in an unlucky astronaut’s eye or, worse, the electrical gizmos and doohickies onboard, potentially starting a fire.

This is not an idle concern, by the way. In 1965, NASA astronaut John Young famously smuggled a corned beef sandwich (from Wolfie’s Restaurant and Sandwich Shop at the Ramada Inn in Cocoa Beach, Florida) on Gemini 3, he generously pulled it out of his pocket to share with fellow astronaut Gus Grissom mid mission. Alas, the sandwich didn’t hold together in zero gravity and politicians on Earth freaked out about the effect of errant crumbs.

Now, though, those breadless days aboard the space station may be hurtling into the past. A German company, Bake in Space, is working with the German Aerospace Center and several research organizations on a solution that will allow astronauts to make and eat fresh, crumb-free bread in space.

The goal of the project, which is targeting June 2018 as the date of its ISS “payload launch,” is to make both a bread machine and a dough optimized for micro-gravity that will result in tasty bread and, the company hopes, a mood boost for the space station astronauts.

“Besides a source for nutrition, the smell of fresh bread evokes memories of general happiness …” the project muses on its website. “It is a symbol of recreational time and procedure down on Earth.”

Giving the bread an appealing texture and flavor is a considerable challenge, but vacuum baking the dough at a low temperature in a low-pressure convection oven could be just the ticket, those involved with the project recently told New Scientist.

“According to our baking experts,” Matthias Boehme, at the German space-equipment company OHB System AG, told the science journal, “the process would also make bread rolls more fluffy.”

All the comforts of home.

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Photo: iStock

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