The astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are receiving a crash course in the patience associated with collecting wine. On Monday (11.04), a case of Bordeaux arrived at the ISS, but the astronauts will not be able to drink any of it. The 12 bottles are onboard the Station strictly for aging.
According to NASA’s mission brief, the Bordeaux was launched from Virginia’s Wallops Space Facility in a Cygnus capsule. (Don’t worry about breakage in transit; each bottle is individually packed in a sturdy, metal cylinder.) The case is slated to spend a year in orbit before returning to earth for study.
The experiment is helmed by Space Cargo Unlimited, a private startup. A joint team from the University of Bordeaux in France and the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany will handle the science.A second case of the identical cuvée will be cellared on earth at an optimal 18ºC. This control will be compared to the space wine in a year. The idea is to learn about the effects of microgravity and space radiation on complex liquids like wine. Of course, the actual experts have a far more complex explanation.
“Complex Micro(μ)-Biological System (CommuBioS) studies the aging of complex multicomponent liquids during long-term storage in space. It stores samples of wine, a chemically complex liquid, on the space station and compares the samples with those stored in an aging facility on the ground to determine the effect of the space environment on specific components,” explains the official science speak from NASA. “Results advance knowledge of the evolution of compounds that are critical for the nutrition and taste of foods.”
The venture is part of NASA’s new push to encourage private companies to conduct their own research aboard the ISS.
For example, wine was not the only eccentric experiment that arrive aboard the capsule. Sharing space was a Budweiser backed barley test, carbon fibers from Lamborghini, and a space oven along with batter for chocolate chip cookies.
Likewise, the mission was not the first time that juice from France’s signature region visited the final frontier. A 1977 Château Lynch-Bages was launched into orbit in 1985.