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 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 Cookie?
The simple gesture of offering a warm DoubleTree Cookie at check-in has become synonymous with the brand’s commitment to providing guests a warm welcome and a memorable stay. As Zero G Kitchen ideated solutions to make long-duration 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 Cookie – the perfect food to make the cosmos a more welcoming place. DoubleTree by Hilton is honored that Zero G Kitchen wanted the Cookie to be the first food baked in their oven on the International Space Station!
How exactly will the Cookie be baked in space? How is it different than here on Earth?
In a typical convection oven on Earth, there is a continuous cycle of hot air rising and cool air moving in to replace it, setting up a constant flow of air in the oven called a convection current that allows for even cooking, However, the International Space Station (and space in general) is a microgravity environment, so there is no “up” direction for the hot air to float towards – meaning, we can only depend on heat being conducted through the air. With this in mind, NanoRacks designed the space oven with heating elements around the entire interior to distribute heat evenly and develop a pocket of air in the cooking chamber, allowing the oven to reach cooking temperatures while using far less power than a conventional oven does on Earth.
- 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.
Since space is home to astronauts, science, life support and much more, NanoRacks ensured safety was in the oven’s design by making any heat near the walls of the chamber conduct out of the oven by metal surfaces very quickly. Since there are no air currents to distribute the hot air back to the chamber walls, the interior surfaces of the oven will remain relatively cool and safe for astronauts to work near.
Is the recipe for the Cookie going to space the same Cookie recipe served to guests on Earth?
As of now, nothing indicates alternations will need to be made to the DoubleTree Cookie recipe 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 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 the Cookie will turn out—this program truly is an experiment! We cannot say for certain that astronauts will eat the DoubleTree Cookie, however, we’re hoping it looks so tempting and delicious that they can’t help but take a bite!
When and how will the Cookie dough and oven be sent to the International Space Station?
DoubleTree by Hilton is working alongside Zero G Kitchen and NanoRacks to send the Cookie dough, along with the state-of-the-art oven, to the International Space Station later this year as part of a payload bound for the International Space Station. We are working towards the NG-12 mission scheduled for fall 2019.
Is it possible that the 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 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 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 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. To ensure DoubleTree by Hilton is always serving the freshest Cookies possible and to celebrate the first Cookie to be baked in space, hotel guests and cookie lovers alike can stop by any DoubleTree by Hilton location on National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (Aug. 4) to enjoy a complimentary signature, warm DoubleTree Cookie.
Where can I go for more information on this program?
We encourage all to keep an eye out on DoubleTree by Hilton’s social media for updates related to the launch in the weeks prior to take off. In the meantime, to learn more about the launch of the DoubleTree by Hilton Cookie into space later this year (timing to be confirmed) and the technology behind the oven, please visit www.cookiesinspace.com or 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 safety 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 Cookie smells!
- NanoRacks has brought more than 750 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. To date, the final oven is fully built, has passed all three phases of the rigorous NASA safety review and has been handed over to NASA for launch.
How high does the temperature need to be to bake the DoubleTree 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!