Cosmic cookies! Astronaut weighs in on the future of baking in space

A baked and sealed space cookie.Astronauts have successfully tested a new zero gravity oven for baking tasty treats in space.
A baked and sealed space cookie.Astronauts have successfully tested a new zero gravity oven for baking tasty treats in space. (Image credit: NASA)

Recently, a batch of baked chocolate chip cookies returned from space, signifying a major step forward towards the future of how humans will eat and thrive in space. 

The delicious experiment, which took place using cookie dough from Hilton's DoubleTree Hotel and the Zero G oven, an oven designed specifically to work in the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station, was the first time that raw ingredients (the dough) was cooked or baked. 

"I think it was a great success," former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, who has served as a sort of "cookie consultant" for Hilton throughout this experiment, told "We now know this can be done." He added that the success of this experiment opens "the door for other opportunities to cook things."

Related: Space Food Evolution: How Astronaut Chow Has Changed (Photos)

The experiment also answered a few questions about what happens when you try to bake in space. One of the biggest questions people had was: "would the space station smell like fresh-baked cookies?" And, apparently the smell from the cookies did permeate the station (after they were baked for a certain amount of time). The experiment also found that cookies take a lot longer to bake in space (they don't know why yet) and they turn out looking like regular, Earth cookies, not puffed up like some thought they might be. 

"With this cookie i thought it would be a lot poofierm," Massimino said. The cookie looked more "like a cookie you would bake on Earth.

Further investigation and analysis of the experiment's results will also continue to answer questions, such as why the cookies took much longer to bake in space and why they weren't "poofy."

Massimino, who brought individually-wrapped, bite-sized biscotti up to space with him and famously was only one of two astronauts to ever gain weight in space, related the experiment to an experiment he partook in which tested how sunflowers would grow in space. According to Massimino, the flower itself looked "normal" but "the stalk was like a wire below us," because it didn't need to be thick to support the flower because of the microgravity environment. 

Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Christina Koch pose with a freshly-baked space cookie and milk.

Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Christina Koch pose with a freshly-baked space cookie and milk. (Image credit: NASA)

So ... why bake cookies in space?

As Massimino, who also serves as the Senior Advisor for Space Programs at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York, NY, explained, the experiment has been an incredible teaching tool for people of all ages. 

The cookie experiment is a "great way to get people of all ages interested in what's going on in space," he said. 

But, besides its importance as an education tool, the experiment also has incredible applications for supporting longterm spaceflight, he added. 

"I think a lot of astronauts will be looking forward to having cookies," he said about some of the most obvious applications. "In space," he added "you're looking for these reminders of home." Massimino added that these connections to home, to Earth, helps astronauts to feel "normal" and morale boosters like these are incredibly important to the astronaut's psychological well-being, which is integral to their performance. 

The future of space exploration

This experiment also marks a big step forward for space exploration. 

"This is a big step in that direction for the future of exploration where we're gonna be off the planet for longer periods of time," Massimino said. He continued, adding that within the very near future we may be starting to build settlements on off-Earth location like the moon, and we will need to use specialized tech to ensure that the humans living off-Earth have access to good, nutritious (and delicious) food. 

As far as what might be next for baking or cooking in space, Massimino had a couple of suggestions.

So what does Massimino want to see next? "The next thing would definitely be a pizza of some sort," he said. "Bagel bites or hot pockets of some sort." He added that it would also be nice for astronauts to have something they could "bite into … something big like a big cheeseburger or a big sandwich." 

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.

  • Robert Lucien Howe
    The really staggering thing about this whole cookie thing is that its the first real cooking done in space. People have been spending serious time living in space on the ISS for two decades now, and way back on earlier stations..

    For true living in space cooking is one of those little steps we tend just not to think about. Recycling water and air, carbon and waste recycling, food production by growing crops, maybe even fish. Cooking is a vital step towards completing the system. One small step for cookies.