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NASA just blasted cookie dough and a cookie oven into space, and SYFY WIRE was there

By Elizabeth Rayne
NASA/Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo mission NG-12

When NASA said it was going to send cookie dough into space for the very first time this year, they really meant it. Those cookies could be baking up there really soon.

This morning, DoubleTree hotels’ famous chocolate chip cookie dough and a space oven made by futuretech company Nanoracks in collaboration with Zero-G Kitchen took off to the ISS on the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo mission NG-12 at the NASA Wallops launch facility on Wallops Island, VA. Until now, space food (however cool astronaut ice cream sounds) has either not needed heat or been heated with alternate methods, but never actually baked in an oven. Some really tempting chocolate chip cookies are going to be the first thing that has ever been baked in space.

“For us, it’s a symbol of hospitality,” DoubleTree Senior Director of Brand Management Garrett Marqua told SYFY WIRE. “To be able to take the DoubleTree cookie into outer space is quite literally for us an opportunity to take the cookie beyond where it’s ever been; to welcome our astronauts with a warm chocolate chip cookie and to participate in this experiment is something we’re really excited about.”

“We’re fairly certain that the cookie is going to be different from how they turn out on Earth; we just don’t know what is going to be different,” Mary Murphy, senior internal payloads manager at Nanoracks, told SYFY WIRE. “We’re essentially trying to keep as many variables as possible the same as on the ground so we can really focus on what these differences might be.”

Marqua agreed that the shape of the cookies in microgravity was one of the things both DoubleTree and Nanoracks were most curious about.

NASA/Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo mission NG-12

Liftoff for the mission happened at exactly 9:59 a.m. NASA officials were almost positive there would be no “cataclysmic events,” as they called them—the closest thing to a euphemism that isn’t really a euphemism—though you never know after that infamous SpaceX disaster.

SYFY WIRE was able to see the first stage of the next Cygnus rocket that will be launching up close. It’s kind of surreal to stand just a few feet from a metal monster that will be shooting into low Earth orbit a few months from now, a place where most Earthlings will never go unless we get into space tourism when it eventually becomes a thing. Factoid: You know those silica gel packets you get in a box of new shoes? Rockets need a much greater quantity of that same material to preserve the payloads inside.

NASA/Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo mission NG-12

Speaking of payloads, something amazing was going on in the Wallops facility. You’re going to have to imagine this one, since it was beyond the no-camera zone—NASA employees in sterile white suits were loading the last of the experiments to fly on this mission. The team broke out in applause when everything was fully loaded, and considering the payload includes experiments like a superhero vest that blocks killer radiation and a nano-implant that can prevent the detrimental effects of microgravity, it was kind of a big deal.

Nobody really knows how those cookies will end up, though the one thing they will be is edible, no matter what they taste like. They could be anything from crunchy to cakey. They could end up coming out of the oven in some bizarre shape. Absence of gravity means that the dough is pretty much free to do whatever it wants, though it will be contained in a silicone pouch that is placed in the oven. All an astronaut needs to do after that is set the bake time and wait for the entire space station to start smelling heavenly. No preheating required. 

Nanoracks cookie oven and Doubletree cookie dough

If you’ve never seen a live rocket launch before, it is incredible. The whole “T minus 3, 2, 1” thing is not just in documentaries and sci-fi movies. When liftoff happens, the rocket ignites with a tail of flame that bursts into fire as it is propelled upward. The blast of sound is so loud, almost unimaginably loud, that it almost makes you forget you’re standing on Earth (rocket launches don’t necessarily produce a sonic boom unless you’re talking about SpaceX). Even heavy metal concerts have nothing on a rocket.

After the rocket has soared out of sight, it leaves behind swirls of chemtrails against the sky. The effect is mesmerizing. Speaking of what’s out there, will there ever be a DoubleTree hotel on the Moon or Mars?

“That would be incredible,” Marqua said, noting that company founder Conrad Hilton was something of a space geek himself. “That would be fantastic if one day that was an opportunity that presented itself, but we’re taking it one day at a time here on Earth.”

A special thanks to Rich of Delaware Surf Fishing for being awesome enough to let us borrow his hi-res camera for some of these shots!

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