Written by: Jose Bimbo F. Santos, InterAksyon.com
If in the future, man does indeed conquer space and “boldly go where no one has gone before”, he may have to thank a Filipino for having a happy tummy in zero gravity.
Filipino citizen Apollo Arquiza (BS Chem Eng. 1990, magna cum laude), a postdoctoral research associate who is an alumni of the UP Los Baños, is part of a team at Cornell University now building a space galley to enable cooking in outer space.
The research is being undertaken as the traditional pre-packaged meals won’t cut it during long-haul missions, such as the six-month trip to Mars, due to lack of nutritional variety.
Cooking, however, will be extremely tricky to do in an enclosed environment especially with the attendant hazards of fire and smoke. In addition, low gravity is a big curve ball as it affects evaporation of particles and heat, thus prolonging the time it takes for water to boil.
Arquiza thus focused specifically on how to stir-fry in outer space, which he did with the team during four test flights aboard the zero-gravity G-Force 1 space simulator launched in Houston.
“We thought about what would be the most stressful cooking thing that could be done — and that’s stir frying,” Arquiza was quoted in a report . “If we could sort of find the solution for that, then the others would not be bad.”
Together with the team, Arquiza then tossed tofu and shredded potatoes into pans of sizzling oil and filmed the results.
“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,” a report from the Cornell Chronicle said.
Arquiza, according to the Cornell Chronicle, 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.”
“The trip was the culmination of months of research and tinkering. Every detail had to be finely tuned, even the ideal power setting on the induction cooker to heat the oil quickly without crossing its smoke point,” Arquiza told the Cornell Chronicle.
The cooking was done through the space galley designed by Arquiza and the team, which incorporated design elements from submarine galleys and chemical fume used in labs. The enclosed unit has charcoal filters and a fan that sucks in air from the front and draws particles away from the cook.
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