A case of Bordeaux wine has been delivered to the International Space Station, to study the effects of micro-gravity and radiation on the maturation of wine.
12 bottles of the French red were part of the cargo delivered on Monday by the latest Commercial Re-Supply mission to the orbiting laboratory, 400 kilometres overhead.
In total, more than 3,700 kilograms of supplies and scientific equipment were carried by Orbital Science’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft, launched atop a Northrop-Grumman Antares 230+ launch vehicle. The 420 metric ton International Space Station must maintain a speed of 27,600km per hour to remain in orbit.
After spending a year in the micro-gravity environment aboard the space station, the wine will be returned to Earth to be analysed as part of an experiment being conducted by the universities of Bordeaux and Bavaria. Scientists are investigating the effects of micro-gravity and radiation on wine components such as crystals, colloids, tannins and other polyphenols.
There is some history of wine in space. NASA had planned to include sherry in the food packs for Skylab missions during the 1970s. However, astronauts complained that “the smell of the sherry combined with the residual odour of vomit on Nasa’s low-gravity aeroplane made many feel ill during test flights.”
Apollo 11 astronaut, Buzz Aldrin is thought to be the first to consume wine ‘off-earth’. He wrote of privately taking communion shortly after having landed on the Moon in July 1969, in his book Magnificent Desolation. “I poured a thimbleful of wine from a sealed plastic container into a small chalice and waited for the wine to settle down as it swirled in the one-sixth Earth gravity of the moon. My comments to the world were inclusive: “I would like to request a few moments of silence… and to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.”