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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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