Budweiser took an important step towards brewing beer on Mars this weekend. Yes, Mars! The plan may be a PR stunt, but it’s a good one! On Sunday (12.17), the International Space Station’s (ISS) badass robotic arm grabbed SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and pulled in the cargo pod carrying Bud’s barley seeds.
It all started at SXSW where AB InBev’s VP-Marketing Innovation Valerie Toothman announced that Big Beer planned to open a brewery on Mars (you know, after humans land on Mars). Bud has the budget to take the headline grab to the next level and indeed they did. The company sent the 20 barley seeds to space packaged inside two TangoCubes, a modular system designed to conduct research in microgravity.
“Budweiser is always pushing the boundaries of innovation and we are inspired by the collective American Dream to get to Mars,” said Ricardo Marques, VP, Budweiser. “We are excited to begin our research to brew beer for the red planet.”
The seeds will orbit the earth for 30 days and then return to terra firma for evaluation. Scientists will look for signs of mutation or any other changes to the seed that might hinder barley production in the final frontier. The research could help to advise regular Earth farmers about their current barley crops. A second experiment will entail two weeks of germinating the seeds to compare with germination controls at home.
Budweiser may have been forced to choose Mars because the space-beer field is already getting crowded. In 2009, Sapporo released 250 six-packs of Space Barley, a beer made from barley not just studied, but grown on the ISS. In 2011, two civilians shot a can of Natty Light (also owned by A-B InBev) into the stratosphere (which technically is not really space). Then, there is the curious case of Vostok Space Beer. After learning that carbonation is bad in space (when you burp in space, you burp liquid and gas), these brewers created 4 Pines Irish Stout, a low carbonation beer that allegedly tastes great on Earth.
Space nerds will appreciate the details of the SpaceX CRS-13 mission that carried the barley. On Friday (12.15), a reused Falcon rocket propelled the reused Dragon capsule into space. The mission was the first time that both components of the vehicle were previously flown. In addition to barley, the Dragon carried nearly 5000 pounds of supplies for the astronauts. NASA even sent up some Christmas gifts, but, of course, we won’t know what’s in those boxes until the morning of December 25th.