Cookies in Space FAQ
How did DoubleTree by Hilton become involved with baking food in outer space?
It all started with a tweet from DoubleTree by Hilton to Elon Musk in February 2018, just after SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster into space. DoubleTree by Hilton asked if Spaceman, the spacesuit-wearing mannequin “driving” the car, wanted a signature, warm DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie for his trip.
While Mr. Musk didn’t respond to the Tweet, Zero G Kitchen did. At the time, they were creating an oven with Nanoracks that could bake raw ingredients in space, and they invited DoubleTree by Hilton to have its cookie be the first food baked on board the International Space Station. From there, the sweet partnership began between DoubleTree by Hilton, Zero G Kitchen and Nanoracks, based around the sole goal of making long-duration space flight more hospitable.
Out of all the food options that could be tested in the oven, why a DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie?
The simple gesture of offering a warm DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie at check-in has become synonymous with the brand’s commitment to providing guests a warm welcome and a comfortable stay. As Zero G Kitchen ideated solutions to make space flight more hospitable for long-duration flights, they began to test a prototype space oven that would be able to bake food in space and the first food they thought of was a DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie – the perfect food to make the cosmos a more welcoming place. DoubleTree by Hilton is honored that Zero G Kitchen wanted the brand’s cookie to be the first food baked in their oven on the International Space Station!
How exactly will the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie be baked in space? How is it different than here on Earth?
The International Space Station (and space in general) is a microgravity environment, so Zero G Kitchen and Nanoracks have researched and developed state-of-the-art technology that allows food to be baked with minimal gravity. While it is hypothesized that, once baked, the cookie will take on a cylindrical form, it is not 100 percent certain how the cookie will turn out—this program truly is an experiment!
- Microgravity is the condition in which people or objects appear to be weightless. The effects of microgravity can be seen when astronauts and objects float in space. Microgravity is sometimes called "zero gravity," but this is misleading.
- Gravity causes every object to pull every other object toward it. Some people think that there is no gravity in space. In fact, a small amount of gravity can be found everywhere in space. For example, gravity is what holds the moon in orbit around Earth.
Is the recipe for the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie going to be the same recipe served to guests on Earth?
No alterations to the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie recipe were needed in order for it to be baked in space. Zero G Kitchen’s ultimate goal is to create an oven that allows foods to be prepared in space the same way they’d be prepared on Earth.
What will the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie look like after it’s baked? Will the astronauts aboard the International Space Station eat it?
While it is hypothesized that, once baked, the cookie will take on a cylindrical form, it is not 100 percent certain how it will turn out—this program truly is an experiment! After the baking experiment, the cookies will undergo additional testing back on Earth to assess the outcome. But don’t worry, astronauts aboard the ISS will be given an opportunity to enjoy special pre-baked DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies since those baked in the prototype oven will return to Earth to be studied.
When and how will the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie dough and oven be sent to the International Space Station?
In July 2019, the pre-portioned DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie dough launched to the ISS and has been kept frozen since. On Nov. 2, 2019, the prototype oven and several pre-baked DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies will be launched from Wallops Flight Facility in a rocket bound for the ISS as part of a landmark microgravity experiment.
Once on the ISS, astronauts will bake the dough inside the oven, making the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies the first food ever baked in space. The cookies baked in the oven will then return to Earth to undergo additional testing (timing TBC), but don’t worry, we are sending pre-baked cookies up on Nov. 2 so astronauts can enjoy some cookies.
Is it possible that the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie will come out of the oven uneatable? If so, then what?
The main objective of this mission is to test the final, physical outcome of food that is baked in the microgravity environment of space. What’s so exciting about this “test” is that we don’t know what shape or final texture the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie will have after it is baked—will it be a blob? A sphere? Runny? Smooth? But, that’s the fun of science and space!
That being said, while we expect the brand’s cookie to be fit for consumption after it’s baked on the International Space Station, the NASA Food Lab requires additional testing and requirements before any food, including the cookie, can be considered officially “edible.”
Upon return, will people be able to taste or try the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie that was baked in space?
Unfortunately, the cookies – or any space food for that matter – just don’t taste the same when eaten on Earth. People will not be able to try the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie that was baked in space.
Where can I go for more information on this program?
To learn more about the launch of the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie into space and the technology behind the oven, please visit www.CookiesinSpace.com or www.Newsroom.Hilton.com/CookiesinSpace. Get involved on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook by tagging @DoubleTree and using #CookiesinSpace.
OVEN TECHNOLOGY QUESTIONS
Who came up with the idea for this oven and how?
The idea for a fully functioning oven in space is the brainchild of Zero G Kitchen founders, Ian and Jordana Fichtenbaum, along with Nanoracks. It is the result of the combination of Ian and Jordana’s unique backgrounds in space systems companies and the hospitality industry (respectively) along with Jordana’s lifelong passion for cooking and baking. In addition, through extensive research they realized there is a whitespace in the space technology industry in terms of how astronauts make food in space.
After the initial idea was solidified, Ian approached Nanoracks, who built a small prototype, which proved that the oven could be created relatively simply and affordably.
From there, Ian and Jordana officially formed Zero G Kitchen, a company whose sole purpose is to provide accessible appliances in space targeting the creation of a full kitchen, beginning with an oven.
What does the oven look like and how does it work?
The Zero G Kitchen Space Oven is a cylindrical-shaped insulated container designed to hold and bake food samples in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station. The oven allows food samples to be placed in a tray where they are held steady inside the oven while baking occurs. The insulation and venting mechanisms allow the oven to operate safely in the controlled environment of the International Space Station.
How will the astronauts aboard the International Space Station know how to use the oven?
Nanoracks will provide very clear instructions to the astronauts on how to use the oven safely. They also have an in-house operations center through which the astronauts can communicate directly with Nanoracks in case they have any questions or issues…or, if they just want to say how great the fresh-baked DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies smell!
- Nanoracks has brought nearly 1,000 research experiments and satellites to orbit, so they know exactly how to build out plans for the crew members on board.
Is this oven different than my oven at home?
This is the first appliance created and tested that’s designed to freshly prepare small food items – such as rolls, cookies, patties, pockets and other basic foods – for long-duration space flight.
I’ve read that there’s already an oven onboard the International Space Station. How is this oven different?
Currently, a convection oven is available to warm up foods on the International Space Station, but it only reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius). That's not hot enough to cook meals using raw ingredients; it can only heat foods to serving temperatures.
What was the process for getting the oven approved to be tested on the International Space Station?
Zero G Kitchen and Nanoracks have worked closely to develop a technology that adheres to NASA safety standards. Once built, the final oven passed all three phases of the rigorous NASA safety review and was handed over to NASA for the launch.
How high does the temperature need to be to bake the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie?
This is truly an experiment, so we are not completely sure what temperature the dough will need to be heated to, and for how long. We’ll be in contact with the astronauts throughout the process and they will provide insight into the ideal time and temperature. We’re excited to find out!