What happens to booze in space?
To answer this eternal question, a dozen bottles of Bordeaux were sent up to the International Space Station (ISS) last year. The Grand Cru red wines — some of the finest in the world — were shot into low-earth orbit for a year to test the effects of space radiation and weightlessness on their aging process. Come November 2020, and we’ll finally know what space-aged tipple is really like!
The bottles for ‘Mission Wise’ were carried up in a Northrop Gumman capsule from Virginia, USA on November 2, 2019. Launched in metal canisters to prevent breakage, they reached the ISS two days later. The experiment was a venture by Luxembourg company Space Cargo Unlimited (SCU), and was partnered by universities in Bavaria, Germany and Bordeaux, France. On the shipment’s return, the space-aged wine will be compared to 12 bottles from the same batch to note differences in profile. The exact label has been kept a secret, to avoid the project becoming a marketing ploy.
This is the first of six missions planned by SCU till 2022. It aims to build research for the future of agriculture in the face of climate change. The experiment’s scientific director says that since winemaking involves yeast, bacteria and chemical processes, it’s an ideal consumption item to study in space. The end goal is to cultivate new flavours and properties for the food and beverage industry.
This might be our first wine cellar in space, but it’s not our first alcoholic jaunt beyond the atmosphere. French astronaut Patrick Baudry took a vintage bottle of Bordeaux onto Discovery in 1985 for a week. On its return, though, the bottle remained corked and on display in the label’s cellar, with not a drop offered in samples. Beer giant Budweiser has also shuttled barley seeds into the ISS since 2017, and wants to become the first brand to brew beer for Mars.
Read | Days of Wine and Rosés