How will we live in the future? What will we eat? Will we run out of flour again!? 

You can expect answers to these and other bizarre food-related questions at a unique event happening at Science Week Ireland next week (8 – 15 November 2020).

Andrew Smyth, aerospace engineer and Great British Bake Off finalist, and Dr Niamh Shaw, scientist, performer and space explorer will present ‘Baking In Space’, with four virtual shows to choose from, taking you on a journey from Earth to the Moon and back, with demos and bakes – all from your kitchen!

Baking In Space – Bake to the Future' will explore our planet in lockdown, how we have learned to adapt and the parallels between living in space and living during COVID-19.

Andrew has toured his live “bakineering” show around the UK and has even baked a rotating jet engine cake for Prince William. Not to be outdone, Niamh has participated in a simulated Mars mission in the Utah desert and experienced microgravity on a Zero G parabolic flight.

‘Baking In Space’ is supported by long-time partner of the BSA, Yakult, who are currently conducting research in space, looking into the influence of their unique bacteria on astronauts on the International Space Station.

Ahead of the big day, we asked Andrew and Niamh some questions to explore the surprising connections between everyday bakes and extraordinary engineering. Needless to say, our curiosity has been whisked, stirred, and taken out of this world…
Pictured: Dr Niamh Shaw, scientist, performer and space explorer                  Pictured: Andrew Smyth, aerospace engineer, baker and presenter

Tell us about how the idea of Baking In Space, com
bining two very different disciplines of baking and engineering, came about?

Andrew: The original idea for "bakineering" was something I devised as part of two events for the National Space Centre in 2017. This led to creating some YouTube videos with the British Council, who very kindly put me in touch with Niamh. We got on like a house on fire and realised we could create a full show, combining my bakineering demos with Niamh's space credentials, performing background and contacts in the industry!

‘Baking In Space’ was then born at the Edinburgh Science Festival in 2018 and was a huge success, so we put on 2 sell-out runs with British Council for Ireland Science Week in 2018 & 2019.

We've had fantastic support from Science Foundation Ireland and Yakult from the beginning too, they really bought into the vision and took a punt on us!

Niamh: Everything Andrew said, I couldn’t have put it better. But also, what’s probably worth mentioning is that Andrew is an absolute delight to work with. A consummate professional who shares the same exacting standards as I do. So, it was a collaboration made in heaven. And being two gingers is an added bonus too, of course!

What exciting highlights have we got to look forward to in this year’s ‘Baking In Space’ show?

Andrew: I wouldn't want to give away too much at this stage, but safe to say we'll be whisking our audience away on a virtual journey into orbit, with loads of edible demos including an edible moon base. Plus, we're thrilled to be joined by the first British Astronaut, Helen Sharman, for our premier UK/Ireland show!

In what ways is food important when carrying out a space mission?

Niamh: Food is an important part of daily life. It’s the fuel that gives us energy to work and play. Eating healthily is particularly important when you are working hard, at a pace required by astronauts on mission.

Also, food can be quite comforting when you are surviving in the extremes of space. The ritual of eating together has been shown to be an important part of team dynamics. Having a diet that is not only nutritious but also varied, is very helpful in giving the astronauts a sense of wellbeing in an environment that is uncomfortable. 

What do you think are the parallels between living in space and living in lockdown?

Niamh: Lockdown has forced us to remain in our homes more than we normally do.  So, there are definitely parallels between that lifestyle and astronauts isolated onboard the international space station, as well as analogue missions. But lockdown is probably harder to endure because space missions are finite, there is a definite end in sight. Astronauts are part of a team and they work together in close contact. For those in lockdown, living on their own (like myself), you don’t have the comfort of crewmates. 

Did you always wanted to work in the space industry, or is this something that was developed over time?

Andrew: I've always been fascinated by how things work, aircraft in particular, so I grew up wanting to become a pilot. I decided it would be good to have a fallback option so went off to study Aerospace Engineering and realised I absolutely loved it. The penny dropped that I wanted to be designing the flying machine, not just driving it.

My Masters Project was on developing origami folding patterns to deploy sails to take satellites out of low earth orbit. I decided to abandon the pilot plan and stay in the Aerospace industry and it's where I've worked ever since. I currently work on Future Aircraft Research with Rolls-Royce!

What advice would you give to young people interested in pursuing a career in the space industry, or a career in science more generally?

Niamh: It’s important to keep your dream in focus and an easy way to do that is to tell everyone! If you tell as many people as you can, then you’ll find connections that may be helpful for you to make a career in space happen.

The UK Space Agency run lots of events for the public, and then the Space Centre in Leicester is hub for all things space. Definitely pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM), write or email anyone you know who works in the space sector, write to your space heroes and tell them about your dream. It’s definitely much easier to pursue a career in space now. So, tell everyone, write to people, get a qualification in a STEM subject, keep that dream in focus and work hard! 

Andrew: Stay curious and keep asking questions! Science and Engineering is all about discovery and problem solving! There are so many great science books out there now too, I particularly recommend Tim Peake's book Ask an Astronaut!

How do you think initiatives like Baking In Space enable more people, especially those from groups who are traditionally under-represented, to feel that science is relevant to their lives?

Andrew: Science can at times feel inaccessible, but food and baking are all around us and found in almost every culture and walk of life. We've made such an effort to make things accessible this year, with free events, recipes and an activity booklet. I think all of that combined has the potential to stir people's innate curiosity and can be the start of a chain reaction to seeing science as more relevant to their lives!

In what way does learning about space help us to understand more about how to live sustainably on our own planet?

Niamh: Ensuring that people can survive in extreme environments forces scientists and engineers to seek out solutions. For instance, I participated in a simulated Mars mission in the Utah desert a few years ago. To simulate the living conditions on Mars, we had a limited reserve of water, food and power. Without water on tap (literally), you value this resource much more differently, so much so, that I still monitor my water usage back on Earth.

On the International space station, water is an even more valuable resource, and smart recycling technologies have been developed to provide as much water possible to the astronauts onboard. The technologies that emerge from solving issues like water recycling gives Earth smarter and more efficient solutions to living in our planet.

Whether it’s water recycling, reducing emissions or smarter disposal of waste, we can apply the same technology on Earth to help us live more sustainably. 

Ready to blast off? Book your FREE tickets here.

About Baking In Space 2020

‘Baking In Space – Bake to the Future’ is a Science Week Ireland 2020 programme funded by Science Foundation Ireland and created in partnership with British Council Ireland, Dr Niamh Shaw and Andrew Smyth.

It is kindly supported by Yakult which is itself boldly going into space for experiments with astronauts on the International Space Station in collaboration with Japan Aerospace Exploration agency (JAXA). Their mission is to study the influence of Yakult’s bacteria on the human body. 

About Andrew Smyth and Dr Niamh Shaw

Andrew Smyth is an aerospace engineer, baker and presenter. As a finalist on the Great British Bake Off in 2016, he grew a firm following for his outrageously engineered creations. 

Since leaving the tent, he’s presented a live cooking segment on ITV’s Lorraine, appeared as an expert contributor on shows for Discovery Science and the BBC, and even baked a rotating jet engine cake for Prince William. He currently divides his time between researching Future Aircraft at Rolls-Royce, teaching patisserie classes and presenting his “bakineering" live shows around the UK and Ireland.

Dr. Niamh Shaw is passionate about people and curiosity and all things space. A polymath with two degrees in engineering, a PhD in science and almost 20 years of performance and writing experience, she has been providing events for the general public at Science Week Ireland since 2014. On a mission to be writer-in-residence at the International Space Station, Niamh wants to connect with a wider global community using space stories to highlight sustainability issues and responsible behaviour as Earth citizens.  

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she provided the 'Space Hub' series of segments for RTE's 'Home School Hub' educational series, and recently launched a new podcast series  'Humans of Space' and an online family video series  'Galaxy Squad'. Her first book 'Dream Big- an Irishwoman's Space Odyssey' from Mercier Press was published in March 2020 and she writes regularly for BBC’s Sky at Night magazine.