Fresh Baked Bread in Space Could Help Bakers on Earth

bread in space, microgravity, baking in space, bread science, science, baking, innovation

Sebastian Marcu, CEO of Bake in Space, posed this problem in a recent interview.

A crew of seven astronauts is going to Mars for 2 to 3 years. You are going to feed each one of them a bread roll each day. To do this, you would need several tons of flour to carry to Mars, which is entirely unsustainable. That is why the ability to bake bread in space is a stepping stone.1

Bake in Space plans to make the production of freshly baked bread in space a reality.

Initial testing will occur on the International Space Station with the goal of creating a self-sustaining supply chain for future space colonies. As Marcu points out, “We can’t keep sending deliveries to Mars, so the goal of Bake in Space is to recreate the production cycle, from growing grain to milling flour, and bread production. We are reverse-engineering the value chain.”

Researchers believe that the best plants for an extended mission are soy, peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes, and wheat.2 They can be processed into a variety of other food products such as flour and soy milk cheese.2 Bake in Space has identified three main issues for bread: formula, production, and equipment.

So, bakers, how do we produce bread in microgravity?

Formula

  • Marcu says, “Bread baked in space should be similar to earthbound bread, though it will need to be crumb-free and will have higher salt content so the astronauts can taste the bread in space.” The current prototypes are prefermented and parbaked.
  • Staling and shelf life will also need to be addressed. Marcu is hopeful that ingredient companies specializing in enzyme research could be one solution.

Production

  • The fermentation process must function in microgravity without contaminating the space station.
  • The cooling process will need to be redesigned and will impact shelf life.

Equipment

  • The oven will have several limitations, compared with our Earth-based oven. According to Sebastian, “Opening a hot oven in microgravity could cause a hot air bubble to escape. A hot air bubble floating around in the space station is a hazard to astronauts and flight equipment.”
  • Energy usage is limited to one-tenth the power of an oven used on Earth.
  • Temperature regulation will need to be implemented in space ovens. The surface temperature of the oven must be cool to the touch, and it will need to heat and cool. The cooling process should occur in the oven, which brings up issues of drying out the bread.

How can you participate?

“We are bringing on board different baking suppliers and bakeries – they can develop their variations of bread together with us and fly them to the space station. Part of the process with those bakers and baking supply companies will be to develop products that can be commercialized. Making those products available to the general public can help raise funds, and allows

[consumers] to be part of the Bake in Space process.

There are several technical issues to resolve, and partnering with the expertise of the commercial baking industry is the best way we know of to open the doors to innovation.

Bread has been a part of human civilization for the last 10,000 years. We want to create that feeling of home and community for astronauts. Creating bread in space and making it available for astronauts who are a long way from home makes the unknown somehow familiar. This issue will have to be tackled – we hope to contribute to finding these solutions.”

If you are interested in learning more or partnering with Bake In Space on a project, please contact Sebastian Marcu: [email protected].

References

  1. Marcu, S. Phone interview. 20 October 2017.
  2. Kloeris, V., and S. Smith.“ Why Do Astronauts Eat Tortillas Instead of Bread?” 21st Century Explorer, NASA, education.jsc.nasa.gov/explorers/p2.html.
  3. “Bake in Space.” Bake in Space , http://bakein.space/
2018-12-10T05:22:34+00:00

About the Author:

Katie Jones
Katie is an innovator, organoleptic guru and food geek with over a decade of experience in the food industry. She created new product categories while working as a Food Technologist in the Organic/ Natural food industry. Her curiosity led her to the study of Sensory Science where Katie developed a sensory program to suit the specific needs of non-traditional food products. She has a passion for bridging the technical language of food science with the art of down-home baking.

2 Comments

  1. Ed Donczyk January 11, 2018 at 9:41 am - Reply

    I guess my biggest question on baking in space would be, how do you make all the ingredients stay in the bowl of the mixer. With zero gravity, as you measure off ingredients into the bowl would they not float away. I imagine water would create some headache as well.

    • Ana Rinck
      Ana Rinck January 12, 2018 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      Those are great concerns to have, Ed! The current prototypes that they are testing are prefermented and parbaked. So they would not be mixing the dough in zero-gravity.

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