In a series of four flights launched from Houston, the team tossed tofu and shredded potatoes into pans of sizzling oil and filmed the resulting oil splatters as the plane climbed and dove in parabolic paths. Each cycle created a brief period of partial weightlessness, simulating the conditions astronauts would face during extended stays on the moon or Mars, which have one-sixth and one-third the gravity of Earth, respectively.
The experimenters positioned strips of paper inside the galley fume hood and dyed the oil bright red to help them see and collect splatter patterns. Under reduced gravity conditions, the food settled more slowly into the pan, and more oil appeared to fall outside of it. The oil droplets also traveled a greater distance from the pan than under Earth conditions – probably because it took longer for gravity to pull them down, Arquiza said.
Arquiza ended up with a collection of 200 red-speckled strips that might resemble evidence from a crime scene investigation, but could contribute greatly to our understanding of the basic science of cooking in space. He is now analyzing them to measure the particles’ size distribution and distance traveled. Results will be used to create computer models that could be extrapolated to inform the design of future terrestrial and extraterrestrial cooking technology.
Postdoctoral research associate Apollo Arquiza shows what the galley (kitchen) looks like in the zero gravity G-Force 1 space simulator plane.
The project is part of a larger investigation by Hunter’s lab into scientific and social aspects of food in space, including a simulated Mars mission in Hawaii to test resource use, menu fatigue and the benefits of home cooking in an enclosed environment, and a bed rest study to test the effects of simulated weightlessness on smell and taste perception.
From left, Cornell researcher Bryan Caldwell, Makel Engineering researcher
Susana Carranza and Cornell researcher Apollo Arquiza conduct low gravity cooking experiments aboard the G-Force 1 space simulator plane.
All students and student teams that were engaged in SSEP experiment design and proposal writing—across all eight SSEP flight opportunities to date (SSEP on STS-134 and STS-135, and Missions 1 through 6 to ISS)—are wholeheartedly invited to attend their conference with their teachers and school administrators, and their families.
The conference provides a formal gathering place where students present on their experiment designs, and those teams that flew experiments report results. We want to immerse students in the experience of a real science conference. It is fitting. If the SSEP is dedicated to letting students step into the shoes of scientists and engineers, then a conference should be part of the experience.
The SSEP National Conference is taking place in one of the most visited museums on the planet, and in the new Moving Beyond Earth gallery. A stanchioned-off, ‘standing room only’ section of the gallery will remain open to the public so that the conference can be part of the public visitorship experience. This is a truly remarkable once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for attendees.
The conference was also scheduled immediately before July 4th in the nation’s capital, so that attendees can stay on and watch the 4th of July fireworks on the National Mall.