For those who aspire to be a space tourist and who also love their beer, this story is for you. A company in Sydney, Australia wants to be the first to offer specially-made brews just for space travel. If they get their wish, you may soon be able to relax in your space taxi or in an orbiting hotel and have your favourite beverage as you enjoy the view.
This is the dream of Jason Held, an American aeronautical engineer who has worked on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Jaron Mitchell, who owns a pub in Sydney, 4 Pines Brewery. They’ve come up with an original craft beer called Vostok 4 Pines Stout, named after the rocket which took the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.
But there are certain challenges unique to developing space beer, namely delivery to space via a rather violent rocket launch with all that shaking going on. Then, there’s the effect of drinking beer on the human body in zero gravity. Both of these problems are still being tested, with a focus on finding a way to deliver the beer to orbit as a liquid, since most space drinks until now have been in powdered form (think Tang). Making a glass of beer from a powder just won’t do.
They also had to increase the flavour and decrease the carbonation to make the beer suitable for zero gravity, since tastebuds on the tongue lose sensitivity in a weightless environment. Burping a highly carbonized drink would result in bubbles of liquid being regurgitated and floating around – not very appealing, but comical at the same time. So then what about the future of Coke or Pepsi in space, I wonder?
Some don’t see beer or dining in general as being a high priority for space tourists though, as noted by Stephen Attenborough, director of Virgin Galactic. “Frankly, we suspect that few if any will want to spend the precious flight time worrying about food and drink,” he said.
But Held sees it differently, saying, “A space hotel without a space bar without space beer. I can’t see it happening.”
All in all, it sounds like a good idea to me (and wine would be nice too), but after the fun, maybe wait a while before driving any space taxis!