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It's a party now! Case of French wine lands aboard the ISS for research

By Adam Pockross

Is it just us, or does space sound like a real good time lately, what with all that Adidas sneaker testing and cookie baking going on up there? Well, it’s fixing to get a lot more fun now that astronauts have a wine cellar.

Wait, what’s that? It’s not for drinking but for science? Well, that’s decidedly not as fun, but potentially far more constructive, as scientists are hoping to discover the effects of space aging on a case of fine French wine.

Yes, on Monday, reports The Washington Post, the International Space Station received a most welcome package delivered aboard a Northrop Grumman capsule that lifted off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility the day before: a case of wine from Bordeaux, a region well known for its age-worthy red blends.   

The clarets in question were packed individually in metal, breakage-proof canisters and will spend a year in space, presumably closed, just taunting the over-Tang-ed taste buds of all aboard. The idea is to test the effects of space radiation and weightlessness on the wine’s aging process, with the ultimate hope of developing new flavors and properties.

The experiment is the brainchild of Luxembourg startup Space Cargo Unlimited, which is working closely with universities in Bordeaux, France, and Bavaria, Germany. With wine making involving yeast, bacteria, and chemical processes, the team thought it an ideal combination for study in space.

If the astronauts aboard the ISS don’t have other ideas, after a year the wine will come back down to earth and be compared to wine of a more terrestrial nature. Whatever’s left over will be divvied up among the big research investors (who were no doubt motivated by the idea of serving space wine to lucky dinner party attendees).

Over the next three years, Space Cargo Unlimited is planning six similar missions with an eye toward studying the future of agriculture in an ever-changing world.   

For the record, this isn’t the first time that ISS astronauts have been tempted. In 2015, Japanese distiller Suntory sent bottles of its premium whiskey to space; meanwhile, Budweiser sent barley seeds up for testing, hoping to someday become the best-selling beer on Mars. In fact, this isn’t even the first time French wine has traveled beyond our atmosphere, as in 1985 a French astronaut stowed a bottle away on the Discovery shuttle.