A dozen bottles of fine French wine have arrived at the International Space Station – but they are not for the astronauts.
The red wine will age for a year up there before returning to Earth, and researchers will study how weightlessness and space radiation affect the ageing process.
The goal is to develop new flavors and properties for the food industry.
The bottles were flown up aboard a Northrop Grumman capsule that launched from Virginia on Saturday and arrived at the ISS on Monday. Each bottle was packed in a metal canister to prevent breakage.
Universities in Bordeaux, France, and Bavaria, Germany, are taking part in the experiment by Space Cargo Unlimited, a Luxembourg start-up.
Winemaking uses yeast and bacteria, and involves chemical processes, making wine ideal for space study, said University of Erlangen-Nuremberg’s Michael Lebert, the experiment’s scientific director.
This is the first of six space missions planned by the company over the next three years touching on the future of agriculture.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure,” said Nicolas Gaume, chief executive and co-founder of Space Cargo Unlimited.
Nasa is opening the space station to more business opportunities like this and eventually even private astronaut missions.
The #Cygnus resupply ship is officially attached to the station where it will stay until January 2020. The Exp 61 crew will soon begin unloading over 4 tons of science experiments, crew supplies and station hardware. Read more… https://t.co/Uq7QNLyB14 pic.twitter.com/p8qIyhy2HK
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) November 4, 2019
The Cygnus capsule that pulled up to the space station on Monday contained multiple commercial ventures.
Also on board were an oven for baking chocolate chip cookies and samples of carbon fibre used by Lamborghini in its sports cars.
Budweiser has already sent barley seeds to the station, with an eye to becoming the beverage of choice on Mars.
In 2015, a Japanese company known for its whiskey and other alcoholic drinks sent up samples. Scotch also made a visit to space in another experiment.
As for high-flying wine cellars, this is not the first. A French astronaut took a bottle of wine aboard the Discovery shuttle in 1985. The bottle remained corked in orbit.
The space station’s current crew includes three Americans, two Russians and an Italian, who might have preferred a good Chianti on board.