Bread, as we know it, is banned in space. This is less to make astronauts’ lives more miserable than to avoid a catastrophic, deadly fire, should crumbs drift into a spacecraft’s electrical system, or other complications.
In the early years of the space program, this concern was mostly hypothetical, until 1965, when John Young, an astronaut on Gemini 3, snuck a corned beef sandwich, from Wolfie’s Restaurant at the Ramada Inn in Cocoa Beach, into the spacecraft. There was no disaster, but there were crumbs everywhere, and a bunch of politicians angry that the astronaut wasn’t eating the carefully engineered food that cost millions to develop.
So crumby bread hasn’t made it back to space since, but now scientists in Germany are developing something that might pass muster with aerospace engineers: bread that lacks crumbs entirely. According to New Scientist, the bread is part of an effort to make long-term space living more sustainable while enhancing the lives of those who will do it.
The scientists, part of a company called Bake in Space, still haven’t perfected the recipe, or determined how it will be baked, but the company said it will test several approaches during a European Space Agency mission to the International Space Station next year.
The challenge, you might guess, is making a crumb-free bread that is also pleasant to eat. One approach being considered is a vacuum baking system, controlled on Earth but baking the bread in space, which would make it possible to bake at lower temperatures. It would also, a Bake in Space official told New Scientist, “make bread rolls more fluffy.”