Recently-married Jewish couple Ian and Jordana Fichtenbaum’s combined passion for the space industry and for offering warm hospitality is set to launch into orbit, more than 400 kilometers above their Manhattan home.
The husband-and-wife team are the entrepreneurs and co-chefs behind the Zero G Kitchen Space Oven, an insulated container designed to hold and bake food samples in the micro-gravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS).
Their prototype oven – together with a batch of cookie dough from DoubleTree by Hilton – will be launched into space later this year to become the very first food to be baked in orbit, the Fichtenbaums told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Built in collaboration with NanoRacks, a provider of commercial access to space, the couple aims to make space travel more comfortable for astronauts spending months onboard the ISS.
“On the space station, there is very important equipment which is used for scientific and other investigations, but the general public cannot relate to a lot of it,” said Ian.
“What laboratory do most of us have in our own homes? A kitchen. We’re inviting people to use something familiar, an oven and hopefully other kitchen appliances, on the space station and other space platforms in the coming months and years.”
Since convection heat transfer is difficult or impossible in zero gravity, Ian said, the oven relies on electric heating elements similar to that found in a toaster oven. The device is powered by electricity drawn from the ISS’s internal power system. The oven can be adapted to provide grilling, pan cook and griddle modes of cooking, all in a micro-gravity environment.
Small food samples are be placed in a tray where they are held steady inside the oven while baking occurs.
While introducing a high heat device into the ISS might have caused concern for space authorities, Ian said that working with the experienced team at NanoRacks enabled the oven to quickly receive the necessary safety approvals from NASA.
“The oven has been handed over to NASA for transport, and we’re very pleased that the first food sample will be a DoubleTree cookie,” he added.
While 91-year-old former Hilton Hotels Corporation president and CEO Barron Hilton is yet to realize his 1967 dream of opening a hotel on the Moon, the hotel brand will become the first hospitality company to participate in research aboard the space station.
“Hilton has long been an industry innovator, and as we celebrate our 100th year, we’re excited to send our hospitality into orbit,” said senior vice president and global brand head Shawn McAteer.
“The simple gesture of a warm cookie welcome is a favorite of DoubleTree guests around the world, and now we are sharing that moment of hospitality as part of this experiment aboard the International Space Station.”