Astronaut set to boldly bake where no one has baked before

Bakers, scientists and engineers are working to develop a bread machine and dough for baking bread rolls in space.

Start-up business Bake In Space is hoping to equip the International Space Station (ISS) with an oven to provide astronauts with fresh bread from dough suitable for use in a microgravity environment.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst, who travels to the ISS at the end of April 2018, will attempt to produce bread using the system being developed by German start-up company Bake In Space. Gerst will remain in orbit, at an altitude of almost 400 kilometres, for six months.

Bake In Space said freshly baked bread such as the German-style ‘weekend’ roll being developed by the project, could improve astronauts’ wellbeing on long-duration missions such as on a Moon base or on Mars.

“Besides a source for nutrition, the smell of fresh bread evokes memories of general happiness and is an important psychological factor,” states the Bake In Space website. “It is a symbol of recreational time and procedure down on Earth.”

Volker Schmid, mission manager at German space agency DLR, said: “If this experiment successfully completes all necessary qualifications in advance of the mission and is then sent to the ISS, it may indeed be interesting for the provision of fresh food on long-term missions, for instance on a journey to Mars.”

Crumbs are a major problem in low-gravity situations, and bread has not been taken on a space mission since 1965, when astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich on to Gemini 3, NASA’s first two-man spaceflight. Mission chiefs feared the crumbs could interfere with the craft’s electronic systems and the sandwich was quickly restowed.

Foods sent into space are often coated with gelatin to prevent crumbs – and Heston Blumenthal used a similar concept when he developed a bacon sarnie for British astronaut Tim Peake.

Bake In Space told New Scientist magazine the bread it is developing will be crumb-free.

DLR will ensure the transport and logistics of the oven and dough to the ISS, while space technologies business OHB System AG will build the bread oven. WFB (Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen GmbH) has provided initial financing to kick-start the project.

Bake In Space last month presented its project at the 2017 UK Space Conference in Manchester.

The project recently won the ESA BIC Challenge at the INNOspace Masters Competition, which recognises activity that could “fundamentally improve the efficiency and customer orientation of the aerospace industry at large as well as ideas and potential solutions for enhancing the flexibility and performance of the processes, components, or subsystems involved in space”.

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