Project

Gravity Proof

Copyright

Maggie Coblentz

Steve Boxall 

As space agencies prepare for a new era of space exploration, and long duration missions to the Moon or Mars, they’ll need to address the complex requirements of providing crews with safe, nutritious food for survival. But, what is at risk of being lost when engineering constraints are the main driver of innovation? Space food should not only nourish, but help build community and celebrate the diversity of flavor of that humans have been cultivating for years.

In order to live sustainably, crews will not be able to bring everything with them and will need to learn how to produce their own food from limited resources. These future space missions will require different types of skills and expertise. It’s inspiring to imagine the role of a future Space Food Specialist or Metabolic Engineer who could produce nutritious and palatable food to boost morale and productivity.

How can we transport and reimagine one of the most earthly foods of our home planet in space—bread? On the Space Exploration Initiative’s zero gravity flight in May 2021 we tested techniques and equipment for baking in space. This multi-part exploration incl… View full description

As space agencies prepare for a new era of space exploration, and long duration missions to the Moon or Mars, they’ll need to address the complex requirements of providing crews with safe, nutritious food for survival. But, what is at risk of being lost when engineering constraints are the main driver of innovation? Space food should not only nourish, but help build community and celebrate the diversity of flavor of that humans have been cultivating for years.

In order to live sustainably, crews will not be able to bring everything with them and will need to learn how to produce their own food from limited resources. These future space missions will require different types of skills and expertise. It’s inspiring to imagine the role of a future Space Food Specialist or Metabolic Engineer who could produce nutritious and palatable food to boost morale and productivity.

How can we transport and reimagine one of the most earthly foods of our home planet in space—bread? On the Space Exploration Initiative’s zero gravity flight in May 2021 we tested techniques and equipment for baking in space. This multi-part exploration included testing an environmentally-controlled chamber to grow sourdough starter, custom tools and gestures for mixing ingredients in zero gravity, and interactions with floating dough for creating new bread forms. 

Space Baking Suit

A custom baking spacesuit was made through a collaboration with fashion designer Addison of Soeder Studios. An apron will float and transform into a wearable countertop in zero gravity, allowing for new creative explorations of working with and shaping dough. The apron features a toolbelt in replace of a cabinet or pantry, since we can’t count on gravity to keep objects in place.

Copyright

Maggie Coblentz

Building a “Life Support System” for Fermentables 

What is the life support system required to bring sourdough starter (and other fermentables) into stasis, and revive them in space? Fermentation is largely impacted by the environment with temperature, humidity, and air quality being main factors. We’re developing a novel system design for an environmentally-controlled Space Fermentation Chamber, built by Noah Feehan, to help astronauts make safe palatable food with minimal infrastructure. 

Expanding on existing space-ready food technologies, the prototype is designed for possible future deployments and integration into the International Space Station (ISS), with the parabolic flight as a beta test. This initial flight experiment tested preliminary component selection for further prototypes and our temperature control technology in zero gravity. 

The Space Fermentation Chamber is part of a multi-year research effort to study, prototype, and test future fermentation-based space food products and systems. Learn more about our ongoing Space Fermentation research, including a previous 30 day ISS mission.   

Copyright

Maggie Coblentz

Project Contributors: 

Maggie Coblentz, Research Specialist, MIT Space Exploration Initiative 

Noah Feehan,  Contractor, MIT Space Exploration Initiative 

Emma Kelley, Undergraduate Researcher, MIT 

Nabila Rodriguez, Gastronomic Scientist, Alchemist 

Diego Prado, Head of R&D, Alchemist