Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen is about to travel into space with the European Space Agency (ESA) to the International Space Station (ISS). And this time he will be accompanied by two of our member companies. They will of course not be joining Andreas themselves, but their products will. Andreas will be taking with him a chocolate bar with functional properties and a filtration system that will make the astronauts' urine drinkable.
"We have learned to survive in space. Now we must learn to live in space."
This is how Thorsten Schmidt, chef, and owner of restaurant Barr, begins. Together with cluster member Lisbeth Ankersen from InnovaConsult, who advises food companies on flavors and ingredients, he has just developed a piece of chocolate that will be sent into space in a few days and will create well-being and some form of coziness for Andreas Mogensen and the other astronauts.
In addition to the huge packed lunch provided by NASA, each of the astronauts has been allowed to bring a number of products, and Andreas Mogensen wanted a product made from functional and natural ingredients that could improve his vision, maintain his concentration, and strengthen his immune system. And Thorsten would be the one to develop it. Not only because he is a star chef who was also part of Andreas' first space journey in the form of a 3-course space menu, but also because he has in-depth knowledge of how the different ingredients affect the body's performance and can produce a product that fits Andreas Mogensen's wish list.
But when raw materials are combined and compressed into a small piece of chocolate, many different factors and documented effects must be considered, and this is where Lisbeth Ankersen from Innovaconsult and her 30 years of experience in product development comes into play. Lisbeth is a super-taster and knows a thing or two about flavors and the effects of ingredients, and her knowledge and ability to delve into scientific documentation has been an essential part of the development of the chocolate.
120 ingredients, but no tomatoes
To fulfill Andreas Mogensen's wish for the product, Lisbeth and Thorsten focused on the vagus nerve, which sends signals between the stomach and the brain, heart, and lungs. This is where specific ingredients can be used to create feelings of satiety, energy, and happiness. This was Thorsten's starting point when he collected functional ingredients that could affect the nerve in the desired way.
120 ingredients was the starting point. A long list that was reduced when Lisbeth got her hands on it and had to eliminate a number of the ingredients, leaving only those ingredients that have the best documentation for their effect - and are EU approved for chocolate. Such was the fate of the tomato, which Thorsten had put on the ingredient list because of its umami flavor and amino acids that could bring out flavors in the chocolate. However, because there is no other chocolate product with tomato yet, this composition has not been approved. An approval process of about 6 months, which the team behind the functional chocolate couldn't wait for, so they had to look for other ingredients that could do some of the same things as the tomato but could never completely replace that particular flavor. That's why they call the chocolate version 1.0, and in the process, they have written a wish list of ingredients to be approved for the next version. Now they are left with an ingredient list of over 70 functional, natural ingredients, including seaweed, cabbage, lactic acid bacteria, and magnesium.
An anchor in the universe
When talking about functional foods that have to do a lot, it's easy to think of shakes and dry muesli bars. So why should Andreas Mogensen's desire for functionality be conveyed in a piece of chocolate? The answer is somehow almost beautiful. At least when you ask Thorsten about the thoughts behind the chocolate. In space, nothing is as we know it. There is no such thing as night and day, no up and down. All earthly traditions and reference points are canceled and taken over by strict space routines when the four astronauts move into outer space. A coffee break with a piece of chocolate, which can serve as a cozy tradition, is welcome for the astronauts in a pressured and hectic "everyday life." The chocolate contains both physical functionality and health in the form of its ingredient list, but it also contributes to mental health and acts as a cozy factor and a focal point of some kind. Andreas is taking 75 pieces of chocolate into space, so if the other astronauts are lucky, he'll probably share some with the coffee.
Useful in space - and on earth
When the space rocket carrying Andreas Mogensen and co. leaves the Earth's surface and launches into the infinite universe, the chocolate becomes available for us earthlings to taste and enjoy the functionality behind it. The dream behind the multichocolate has not only been to benefit astronauts. According to the team, Andreas' wishes for functionality are something we can all use in a hectic daily life on Earth, according to both Lisbeth and Thorsten, as well as Thomas Hoffmann, Executive Creative Director at the advertising agency &Co. in Copenhagen, who is a partner and is behind the financing. Here on earth, the chocolate will be called SpaceCrafted, and although the trip into space is both important and exciting, it is at least as important that we down here on solid ground get the opportunity to enjoy the taste of gourmet chocolate, which also contributes to our health and well-being. The limited edition chocolate will be released as a tribute to the Andreas Mogensen mission and will be available for purchase on the spacecrafted.eu website created in connection with the project.