Thinking Tech

Space beer for space tourists

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Work to develop a beer that can be consumed in space continues.

This latest experiment in beer and space comes from Astronauts4hire, a non-profit founded this year by a group of space enthusiasts whose goal is to provide trained astronauts for researchers who are conducting experiments in sub-orbital (and eventually orbital) space.

Testing space beer -- which will be produced by a joint venture between the 4-Pines Brewing Company and Saber Aeronautics Australia -- is Astronauts4hire's first job.

The tests will start next month aboard a modified Boeing 727 operated by Zero G, a space entertainment company that offers to fly you on a series of parabolic arcs so you can experience weightlessness without leaving Earth -- "flip, float and soar as if you were in space."

Are you nauseated yet? If so, maybe you're not astronaut material. From Astronauts4hire:

Sampling the beer during weightless parabolas, the flight researcher will record both qualitative data on beverage taste and drinkability and biometric data on body temperature, heart rate, and blood alcohol content.

This is the first of a series of flights that will be funded by sales of space beer on Earth, according to Astronauts4hire. Exactly what makes this beer "space beer" remains to be seen.

NASA doesn't allow its astronauts to drink beer or any other alcoholic beverage before or during flights -- the space agency doesn't want astronauts' senses dulled or their reactions slowed. It has advised against giving alcohol to the miners trapped underground in Chile for the same reasons.

Back in 2001, however, NASA did experiment with brewing beer in space -- along with Coors, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Coca-Cola, which were helping NASA commercialize "the space frontier...one of the greatest opportunities facing America," NASA said at the time.

One experiment showed that fermentation was more efficient and happened faster in space -- the picture is of a Coke-dispensing machine that Coca Cola developed for the space shuttle.

From NASA:

By dispensing the drink into a collapsible bag inside the bottle, the pressure around the fluid can be constantly controlled, thus preventing the carbonation from coming out of solution too quickly. The image on the right shows the dispenser being used aboard the space shuttle. Note the tape stuck to the top-right corner of the dispenser that reads "50¢" -- astronaut humor. Image courtesy BioServe.

Last year, Russian and Japanese researchers grew barley on the International Space Station, which Sapporo made into beer. It, too, was called space beer and was sold in six-packs, by lottery, for $19 a bottle, with proceeds going to charity. A video from Reuters is here.

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Deborah Gage

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Deborah Gage has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Minnesota Public Radio, Baseline and various magazines and newspapers. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure