Over the last year, the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) experienced a little slice of life familiar to wine shop employees. That is to say, the space travelers spent the year staring at a case of delicious Bordeaux only to send the bottles off for someone else to drink.
This week, the ISS crew packed the case into a SpaceX Cargo Dragon capsule and sealed the hatch. On Wednesday (1.13) evening, the capsule (and wine!) are scheduled to splash down in the Gulf of Mexico.
(Note for Space Nerds: Weather forced a change in destination from the Atlantic side. The site is unusual for the Elon Musk founded startup which typically prefers the Pacific.)
According to NASA’s mission brief, the Bordeaux was launched from Virginia’s Wallops Space Facility in a Cygnus capsule last year. (Don’t worry about breakage in transit; each bottle is individually packed in a sturdy, metal cylinder.) The case then spent a year in orbit.
In addition, a SpaceX mission delivered about 320 vine clippings to the ISS six months ago. The viticulture element will also be returned to terra firma this evening.
The experiment was 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 handled the science.
A second case of the identical cuvée was 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.
To attain the complex lab analysis, most of the bottles will undergo months of testing. However, at least two bottles will be uncorked at the end of February and tasted by a group of oenophiles.
The process is designed to explore agriculture in zero and microgravity environments paving the way for space colonization. However, the creators also harbored a far less lofty goal, comfort in space.
“Being French, it’s part of life to have some good food and good wine,” he told Space Cargo Co-founder Nicolas Gaume told the Associated Press.