Food returned to Earth earlier this year to be examined. It is not yet known whether it is safe to eat them.
By Guilherme Eler
24 jan 2020, 18h22
Astronaut food is not usually synonymous with a tasty meal. To reduce the weight of the ship and prolong the shelf life of supplies, most of the food tends to come dehydrated from Earth – and it serves more to maintain the nutritional needs of those on board than to provide gastronomic experiences. That is why, as you can imagine, astronauts are not in the habit of preparing whole meals in zero gravity. At most, they add hot water and heat their food in microwave ovens.
But you can't say that they are not trying to increase things. Last month, astronauts at the ISS (International Space Station), in an unprecedented experiment, proved that you can make chocolate cookies in space. It was the first time that a food based on ingredients that were not pre-cooked – or rather, raw – was roasted out of the Earth.
Who finished the recipe were Italian Luca Parmitano, astronaut from ESA (European Space Agency) and American Christina Koch, NASA representative. "We prepared special cookies and milk for Santa this year," said Koch on his Twitter account.
The astronauts tested a total of five frozen cookies. The idea was to evaluate the ideal time and temperature for the preparation. The oven used was a special electric model, created to work in zero gravity. The equipment, as well as cooking materials, left the United States in a supply ship in November 2019.
On Earth, cookies like these are usually ready with a 20-minute oven. The first biscuit, baked in space for 25 minutes, however, was raw. Scientists had the best results by letting the mixture cook for 120 or 130 minutes. The fourth pasta disk, which took two hours to complete, was elected the most golden and appetizing.
But, in addition to appearance, the question remains: did they taste good? Nobody knows yet. All because the production did not stop there. Before becoming dessert for the members of the ISS, it is necessary to check if the cookies are safe for consumption. For now, the sweets have been frozen in Houston, United States, for two weeks, after arriving on board a SpaceX capsule.
One thing is a fact: if we want to spend more and more time in space – or do longer missions – we will need to master techniques for zero gravity cooking. Growing food and preparing more complex foods may rule out the need to launch rockets from sporadic supplies to supply those outside the Earth. Besides pleasing the astronauts' papillae a little, tired of dry food, of course.