Mission: To bake choco chip cookies in space

Mission: To bake choco chip cookies in space

This Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 photo made available by NASA shows the Northrop Grumman Antares rocket a few hours after arriving at its launch pad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The next delivery of supplies for the International Space Station _ scheduled for liftoff on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2019 _ includes the Zero G Oven. Chocolate chip cookie dough is already up there, waiting to pop into this small electric oven designed for zero gravity. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

A supply ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Saturday with sports car parts, an oven for baking cookies and a vest to protect against radiation.

Northrop Grumman launched its Cygnus capsule for Nasa from Wallops Island, Virginia. The 3,700-kilogram shipment should reach the orbiting lab on Monday.

“Good launch all the way around,” a ground controller observed.

The space station’s astronauts will test the oven by baking chocolate chip cookies and try out the new safety vest to gauge its comfort. Both experiments are seen as precursors to moon and Mars journeys.

Lamborghini parts

Other newly arriving equipment will be used in a series of Nasa spacewalks later this month to fix a key particle physics detector. Parked outside the space station since 2011, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer needs new cooling pumps to continue its search for elusive dark matter and antimatter.

Italy’s Lamborghini is also along for the ride. It’s sending up samples of carbon fiber used in its sports cars for six months of direct space exposure. Researchers are considering the materials for medical implants.

Like space, the insides of a person’s body are an extreme environment, explained Houston Methodist’s Alessandro Grattoni, who is collaborating with Lamborghini on the experiment.

As a nanomedicine specialist, Grattoni said on Friday he’s continuously on the lookout for new materials for devices that are inserted beneath the skin. These minuscule implants release therapeutic drugs to treat cancer, hormone deficiencies and other illnesses.

Capsules in orbit

Northrop Grumman is now controlling two Cygnus capsules in orbit, a first for the Virginia-based company. Named for the swan constellation, the Cygnus launched last spring is flying free of the 400-kilometer-high space station, after completing its grocery run. It will be directed to a fiery reentry sometime in the near future, taking station trash down with it, according to company officials.

The newest Cygnus is officially called the S.S. Alan Bean after the Apollo 12 astronaut who became the fourth man to walk on the moon 50 years ago this month. He later commanded Nasa’s first space station, Skylab, and became known for his cosmic-themed paintings. He died last year.

Nasa has contracted with Northrop Grumman and SpaceX to keep the space station stocked. This is Northrop Grumman’s 12th successful Cygnus flight since 2013. The company has upgraded both its Cygnus and Antares rocket to haul more cargo from Nasa’s Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern Virginia shore.

The space station is currently home to three Americans, two Russians and one Italian.

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