The present invention is directed to an apparatus and method for rapid cooling of a large substrate in a vacuum environment. A first cooled plate is brought into close proximity with one surface of a flat substrate. The spatial volume between the first cooling plate and the substrate is sealed and brought to a higher pressure than the surrounding vacuum level to increase the cooling efficiency. A second cooled plate is brought into close proximity with the opposite surface of the flat substrate. A second spatial volume between the second cooling plate and the substrate is sealed and the gas pressure is equalized to the gas pressure in the first spatial volume. The equalization of the gas pressure on both sides of the flat substrate eliminates deflection of the substrate and bending stress in the substrate.