Beer in space: A short but frothy history
After last weeks story about drunk astronauts and alchol abuse at NASA, the NewScientist came out with an article today on the history of alchol in space:
After allegations that astronauts flew drunk, NASA's rules on alcohol are under scrutiny. The agency currently doesn't allow its astronauts to imbibe in orbit, but over the years of crewed space travel, many astronauts have enjoyed a tipple.
In 1969, Buzz Aldrin took communion after landing on the Moon, sipping wine from a small chalice. In the Moon's feeble gravity, he later wrote, the wine swirled like syrup around the cup.
Small amounts of alcohol were apparently allowed on the Soviet space station Mir, and when Russian astronauts joined the International Space Station, there were some grumblings about the decree that it be dry.
That hasn't stopped some researchers from working on ways to brew and serve alcohol in space, however.
Graduate student Kirsten Sterrett at the University of Colorado in the US wrote a thesis on fermentation in space, with support from US beer behemoth Coors. She sent a miniature brewing kit into orbit aboard a space shuttle several years ago and produced a few sips of beer. She later sampled the space brew, but because of chemicals in and near it from her analysis, it didn't taste great by the time she tried it.
Beyond the challenge of producing beer in space is the problem of serving it, says Jonathan Clark, a former flight surgeon and now the space medicine liaison for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute in Houston, Texas, US.
Without gravity, bubbles don't rise, so "obviously the foam isn't going to come to a head", Clark told New Scientist.