CHICAGO — While high-altitude baking provides a host of down-to-earth challenges in the world’s most elevated regions, imagine the technical and scientific difficulties of making fresh baked bread on the International Space Station or even on futuristic exploration to Mars.
That’s an issue Sebastian Marcu, founder and chief executive officer of Bake In Space GmbH, tackled in his presentation that promised “to boldly bake where nobody baked before” at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech, which ran Feb. 24-26 in Chicago.
Replacing the typical aerospace fare of canned goods, freeze-dried snacks and dehydrated meals with oven-baked bread and rolls might seem farfetched for a number of reasons, said Mr. Marcu, who also serves as managing director of a public relations firm that has worked with the European Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center.
Take the sheer amount of ingredients. For instance, he noted, it would require four tons of bulky flour to supply fresh-baked rolls each day to a crew of seven on a 1.5-year journey to Mars.
Then consider the safety restrictions involved making bread on a space craft, where even crumbs are prohibited because they can float around and damage equipment or even be inhaled by the astronauts onboard. Currently, tortillas are the preferred bread of space flights since they aren’t predisposed to crumbing.
Not surprisingly, the oven would provide some of the biggest hurdles. None of its exposed surfaces could exceed 45˚C (about 113˚F), which would require a thoroughly insulated or heat-contained unit.
The actual baking of the mini-bread or rolls would take about 1 hour, compared with about 15 to 20 minutes on earth. That’s because the dough must be placed inside a cool or unheated oven, which is then heated to bake the bread. Afterward, Mr. Marcu noted, the oven needs to cool down to a safe level before the bread can be removed. Otherwise, an invisible bubble of scorching hot air might develop or escape into the cabin and pose an unpleasant hazard to unaware astronauts.
Such a process typically dries out baked foods, so developing a formula or technology to control water and prevent moisture migration remains another challenge, Mr. Marcu said.
“As you can see, baking in space is really rocket science,” he said.
As an offshoot to its primary mission, Bake In Space hopes to create products that may have applications in space as well as benefits for earth-bound consumers. To accomplish its goals, Mr. Marcu is “building bridges” with food industry experts to leverage their expertise in this out-of-this-world venture.
“It’s not rocket scientist who are needed,” Mr. Marcu told the BakingTech audience. “It’s people like yourselves.”