Whenever talk of space travel comes up, it seems to always be about expeditions and missions aimed at discovering otherworldly life — serious stuff. But one European startup appears to be doing something “fun” for a change.
Space Cargo Unlimited, as the startup is aptly called, has just shipped an unusual cargo into space — twelve bottles of wine.
The payload has docked at the International Space Station (ISS) and the company is hoping to find out the effects of operating in a microgravity environment and what it could mean for manufacturing and research.
Astronauts onboard the ISS do get their fix of booze from a special stash but the 12 bottles from the startup are for experimental purposes. It is part of an experiment that will study how the aging process for wine is affected by a microgravity, space-based environment.
The startup also selected wine samples from the same batch which will be aged simultaneously on Earth over a 12-month period. The results obtained from the wine samples aged on Earth will be subsequently compared with the results gotten from the wine samples launched into space which will return in a future cargo return trip.
To ensure the best results, both the Earth and the ISS wine samples will be kept under identical conditions. Both samples will be kept at a constant temperature of around 18 degrees celsius (or around 64 degrees Fahrenheit), undisturbed to allow for the interior complex biological environment of the bottles to affect things.
The predictions from several researchers point to taste differences, resulting from the impact of microgravity and space-based radiation on physical and chemical reactions in the enclosed internal environment that is the bottles. But all the predictions are just educated guesses at best. The real results will be known when the experiment, which is now in progress, is completed.
Space Cargo Unlimited’s wine samples launched aboard a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, loaded onto a Cygnus cargo spacecraft, which successfully docked with the ISS on Monday morning.
With this development, the world may have to start getting ready for a new class of wines that are literally “aged in space”, and they sure won’t come on the cheap — such bottles of wines would undoubtedly command premium prices.
However, Space Cargo Unlimited maintains that their work is more about “following in the footsteps of Louis Pasteur,” who essentially developed pasteurization through experiments with wine fermentation.
With that in mind, the startup is banking on this experiment producing results that could have wider implications across food preservation and related food technologies.
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