Why a Tokyo company just sent a case of booze to the International Space Station

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Aug 26, 2015, 1:52 PM EDT (Updated)

A Tokyo company is shipping a case of booze to the International Space Station, and they actually have a pretty good reason for it.

Sadly, no, it’s not so the astronauts currently serving up in orbit can get sauced on a Friday night. Instead, Tokyo-based Suntory Whiskey (part of Suntory Global Innovation Center) has launched a case of alcoholic beverages up to the ISS to see how the drinks react in weightlessness, specifically how they might “mellow.” The stock includes five different types of distilled spirits. Sorry, ISS crew, we’d imagine they’ll also be counting how many bottles come back.

According to Space, the science project aims specifically to determine how the "mellowness" of sprits is affected by microgravity and a lack of convection (the flow of heat through a liquid or gas). The Suntory company produces several popular products, including Jim Beam, Maker's Mark and Canadian Club, plus Hornitos tequila and Midori.

Here’s how a company official explained it in a statement:

“With the exception of some items like beer, alcoholic beverages are widely known to develop a mellow flavor when aged for a long time. Although researchers have taken a variety of scientific approaches to elucidating the underlying mechanism, we still do not have a full picture of how this occurs. Our company has hypothesized that the formation of high-dimensional molecular structure consisting of water, ethanol and other ingredients in alcoholic beverages contributes to the development of mellowness, and we have been conducting collaborative researches on this topic.”

Though the astronauts currently serving can’t enjoy a stiff drink (the ISS is alcohol-free by design), this experiment could still have some intriguing implications for the future. Namely, we’ll be able to design specific drinks that can stay delicious while in space. Thank you, science!

(Via Space)

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