Saturday, October 02, 2010

Australia contributes beer to international space culture

Australia doesn't even have a space program but a partnership between space engineers and a Sydney brewery aims to make damn sure we won't be beaten to the first space-certified beer (Moses 2010).

Now it's not quite true that we don't have a space programme - we had a ripper one some time ago, and with the new Space Policy Unit, and funding for space research in Australia, we might be able to do something in this line again.  Still, point taken.  Now for the beer.

I have heard, and I believe there are some studies which show this, that altitude affects the sense of taste.  This is why airline food is always so uniformly awful.  A problem, you might imagine, exacerbated a thousandfold in space.  Fine for astronauts who are trained for space conditions, but not so much for your affluent space tourist expecting a bit of luxury.  Or even something a bit normal.

So Saber Astronautics Australia and the Manly-based 4 Pines Brewing Company have formed a joint venture, Vostok, to develop a microgravity beer.

"Humanity has had beer longer than we've had writing so, wherever humanity goes, beer is going to follow," Saber director Jason Held said.  "So if we're to go into space we need to understand how the human body responds to alcohol. It's very difficult to drink beer in zero gravity because you have a reduced sense of flavour and anything carbonated is going to have a hard time because gases respond differently in space than they do on Earth." (Quoted in Moses 2010)

He's right about the antiquity of beer.  It's not really my area, but I do know that beer was consumed like water by the ancient Egyptians, and also by the Tudors.  This was extremely weak beer, and there are some arguments that it prevented people from catching diseases from contaminated water.  However, apart from the ostensible goal of producing a microgravity beer which tastes nice, there may be many other spinoffs in terms of understanding physiology and food in space that could be quite interesting.  If only they weren't starting with a stout - not my favourite at the best of times.

References
Moses, Asher  2010  Beam me up Shhhcotty ..... the Aussie space beer with zero gravity.  Sydney Morning Herald October 1 http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/beam-me-up-shhhcotty--the-aussie-space-beer-with-zero-gravity-20101001-15zzh.html.  Viewed October 1 2010

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