Beam me up Shhhcotty ... the Aussie space beer with zero gravity
BY ASHER MOSES
Australia doesn't even have a space program but a partnership between space engineers and a Sydney brewery aims to make damn sure they won't be beaten to the first space-certified beer.
The beer, intended to meet anticipated demand for space tourism, has been developed by a joint venture between Saber Astronautics Australia and the 4 Pines Brewing Company, located in the northern Sydney suburb of Manly.
The pair will be the first clients of non-profit space research firm Astronauts4Hire, which in November will sample the beer in a low gravity environment while doing "weightless parabolas".
A researcher will record qualitative data on the beer's taste and drinkability and biometric data on body temperature, heart rate and blood alcohol content.
Manly's 4 Pines Brewery and Saber Astronautics Australia celebrate Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human in space on the anniversary of the event on April 12 this year.
"Humanity has had beer longer than we've had writing, so wherever humanity goes beer is going to follow," said Jason Held, director of space engineering firm Saber Astronautics Australia.
"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."
Alcohol is currently banned on NASA space missions and in the International Space Station but Held said this would change with the rise in space tourism over the next 2-5 years.
He said there was a precedent for drinking alcohol in space even among professional astronauts.
"There's a lot of anecdotal evidence of astronauts sampling a bit - there is an issue of morale for long-term space missions," said Held.
"Historically Russians would have a bit of a tipple in space ... [and] Buzz Aldrin had a bit of wine to celebrate communion on the moon."
Jaron Mitchell, owner of 4 Pines, said he had already developed the first prototype of the beer, which was based on the company's regular stout product.
"We've made a few little tweaks to our beer that we have here at the bar and in bottle shops and pubs," said Mitchell.
"Your tongue swells when you're out in space so therefore you lose a lot of the ability to detect flavour, so we've come up with a beer recipe that has a lot of body and full flavour ... to hopefully cut through the lack of sensitivity."
Another issue is the lack of gravity to separate air and liquid in the stomach, which Mitchell explained could cause "wet burps" in space.
"When you're on Earth the gravity actually separates the air and the liquid such that if you burp, you burp the air, whereas when you're just floating around in space you can do what's called wet burps, which are little suspended balls of liquid just hovering around," he said.
"So we've changed a few of the properties of the beer to counter both those things."
Mitchell says he was unsure how the tests would go in November but it would nonetheless provide valuable research.
There hasn't been any official testing of alcohol in space so the team has thus far had to rely on research conducted using water, juice and soft drinks.
"It's just a great little first for humanity and that's the driver of all this, it's not to create some huge market because realistically even though space tourism is starting in 2012 it's going to be a long time until most people can afford to go up there for a weekend," he said.
In 2006, Japanese brewery Sapporo released a limited brand of "space beer" on Earth based on barley grown from seeds on the International Space Station.
Meanwhile, earlier this week space scientists called on the Australian Federal Government to enter the space race, arguing Australia was one of the few western nations to not have a space program.
Completely restored, clearer footage of the 1969 moon landing, some of which was found in Australia, will be screened next week for the first time at the 2010 Australian Geographic Society Awards in Sydney.
- Sydney Morning Herald