You probably had something to eat today that required the use of an oven. You may have even used the oven for supper tonight. They’re nice to have and certainly something many of us take for granted.
Before last fall, astronauts had never used an oven in space. That’s right…never. In fact, it was a mystery as to how an oven would even work in a microgravity environment, such as that on the International Space Station (ISS).
Last November, I was invited to be a part of a NASA Social at Wallops Island, Virginia. They usually send up two ISS resupply missions a year from that location and this was one of them. Among the cargo was the first oven to go into space.
As you can see, it’s kinda small and a bit funny looking, but it can get the job done….in time. The first thing baked was chocolate chip cookies. Imagine the smell of freshly baked cookies wafting through the space station. It’s kinda cool that the first thing EVER baked in space was a chocolate chip cookie. I can get onboard with that! (ha) The cookies were sponsored by DoubleTree hotel.
The cookie dough went up with the rocket’s cargo in November and the astronauts baked them on Christmas Eve, just in time for Santa.
Surprisingly, the cookies took about two hours to bake! It’s unclear if there’s an issue with the oven or if that’s just how it is in space. Better get that turkey in there now for Thanksgiving dinner! (haha)
The oven heats by using electric heating elements, much like a toaster does.
Here on earth we just put cookie dough on a tray and then slide it in the oven. How do you do that without gravity? Well, that’s complicated. The pan must be secured inside and then the cookies must be fastened down somehow. Otherwise, everything would just float around inside the oven.
The cookies were confined to a flattened container. If not for the confinement, the cookies would have baked into spheres. Oh yeah, for those of us who enjoy dunking our cookies in milk…forget about it. NASA still hasn’t decided how you would do that with nothing to hold the milk down in the glass.
This oven really is a game changer. Now, astronauts can take some of those veggies they grew in the Veggie Lab and bake them in the oven! That’s a nice treat. This will be especially nice on long duration missions that take astronauts far, far away from home.
So, when astronauts Behnken and Hurley finally arrive at the ISS they’ll find something in the space “kitchen” they’ve never seen before….a brand new oven!