The ban extends even to the most common food — the humblebread, in various forms. Why? Because it is messy. Bread can break down into tiny pieces and gadgets that, when released into the absence of gravity, can get sucked into the vents, get stuck, and start a fire. They can pass into some expensive equipment and cause it to short out. Alternatively, some small wheat or barley might end up in an experiment that shouldn’t have the above ingredients.
But banning buns hasn’t stopped NASA’s helmeted heroes from smuggling it aboard their craft. On the Gemini 3 mission in 1965, pilot John Young carried a corn beef sandwich in his spacesuit. A few hours into the flight, he removed the sandwich, took a bite, and gave some to Commander Virgil “Gus” Grissom, who also ate some, before quickly stuffing it into his spacesuit. According to NASA, the sandwich was only left out for less than a minute, but some crumbs did come off.
NASA has long allowed astronauts to eat tortillas because they leave no crumbs, have a longer shelf life, and take up less storage space due to their flat nature.
In recent years, companies like Bake In Space have begun developing and testing new ways to provide astronauts with fresh bread. Before NASA can start regularly selling bread in space, several hurdles must be overcome — not the least of which is figuring out how dough bacteria will react in space and how the bread will actually be baked.
Home comforts, like the smell of freshly baked bread, may actually “energize astronauts both physically and psychologically,” says Jennifer Levasseur of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.