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 (ISS). 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 ISS!
What is the science behind baking the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies in space? How was it different than here on Earth?
The ISS (and space in general) is a microgravity environment, so Zero G Kitchen and Nanoracks researched and developed state-of-the-art technology that allows food to be baked with minimal gravity.
- 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.
How were the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies baked in space?
This program truly was an experiment! The average DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie bakes in a convection oven for 16-18 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit on Earth, but astronauts on the ISS were directed to adjust the bake time for each of the five cookies (the first four at 300 degrees Fahrenheit and the fifth at 325 degrees Fahrenheit) to determine the ideal conditions in space. While the first cookie baked for 25 minutes and was under-baked, and the second cookie released a fresh-baked cookie scent in the ISS after baking for 75 minutes, astronauts determined the fourth and fifth cookies – respectively baked for 120 minutes (and left cooling outside of the oven for 25 minutes after) and 130 minutes (left cooling outside of the oven for 10 minutes after) – as the most successful.
What do the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies baked in space look like?
While some had speculated that without gravity the cookies would be more spherical, the initial shape and consistency of the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies appeared the same in space as they are on Earth. Highlights of the experiment were captured aboard the ISS and are available to view here.
Which astronaut(s) baked the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies in space?
Following the Nov. 2 launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, ISS Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency baked the brand’s cookie dough inside the prototype oven, one cookie at a time, as fellow crew members, including NASA astronaut Christina Koch, checked on the progress.
Was the recipe for the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies 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 was to create an oven that allows foods to be prepared in space the same way they’d be prepared on Earth.
When and how was the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie dough and oven sent to the ISS?
In July 2019, the pre-portioned DoubleTree chocolate chip cookie dough launched to the ISS and was kept frozen until Nov. 2, 2019, when the prototype oven and several pre-baked DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies (that the astronauts got to enjoy!) launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in a rocket bound for the ISS.
Why couldn’t astronauts eat the baked DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies?
The main objective of this mission was to test the final, physical outcome of food that is baked in the microgravity environment of space. That being said, while the brand’s chocolate chip cookies were likely fit for consumption after they were baked on the ISS, additional testing is required before any food, including the cookie, can be considered officially “edible.” But don’t worry, astronauts aboard the ISS enjoyed special pre-baked DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies that were sent up on Nov. 2, 2019.
How many DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies were sent up? How many were returned to Earth?
Three of the five baked DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies, as well as other experiments and cargo, returned to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at about 10:41 a.m. ET on Jan. 7, 2020.
Will people be able to taste or try the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies that were baked in space? What will you do with the cookies?
While the brand’s chocolate chip cookies were likely fit for consumption after they were baked on the ISS, additional testing is required before any food, including the cookie, can be considered officially “edible.” The DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies will soon undergo additional testing by food science professionals to determine the final results of the experiment, which will help scientists further future efforts to make long-duration space travel more hospitable. While the public will not be able to try the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies that were baked in space, DoubleTree by Hilton plans to preserve the cookies where visitors can view them and learn more about this experiment and has offered to donate one to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum where it is being considered for collection.
Where can I go for more information on this program? How can I get involved as a consumer?
To learn more about this experiment, 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 ISS. 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 ISS.
How did the astronauts aboard the ISS know how to use the oven?
Nanoracks provided very clear instructions to the astronauts on how to use the oven safely. There was also an in-house operations center through which the astronauts could communicate directly with Nanoracks in case they had any questions or issues…or, in this case, to say how great the fresh-baked DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies smelled!
- 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 was already an oven onboard the ISS. How is this oven different?
A convection oven is available to warm up foods on the ISS, 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. The arrival of the Zero G Kitchen Space Oven to the ISS now allows for the preparation of fresh, small food items for long-duration space flight.
What was the process for getting the oven approved to be tested on the ISS?
Zero G Kitchen and Nanoracks worked closely to develop 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 in space?
Astronauts on the ISS were directed to adjust the bake time for the five cookies they baked to determine the ideal conditions in space. They determined the fourth and fifth cookies – respectively baked for 120 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (and left cooling outside of the oven for 25 minutes after) and 130 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (left cooling outside of the oven for 10 minutes after) – as the most successful. While some had speculated that without gravity the cookies would be more spherical, the initial shape and consistency of the DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies appeared the same in space as they are on Earth.