This Machine Made for Mars Is Helping Craft Brewers Here on Earth

By Mike Pomranz |

© iStockphoto

Humans may not make it to Mars in your lifetime, but don’t worry, all that Mars research on your taxpayer dime is not for naught. Scientists have recently realized that a machine developed for survival on the Red Planet can actually benefit breweries here on Earth. And let’s be honest: Earth breweries are the best breweries—maybe in the entire solar system.

Robert Zubrin, founder of Pioneer Energy and president of the Mars Society, was behind the development of a machine intended to collect Martian air – which is mostly carbon dioxide – and turn it into fuel, oxygen, water and other resources needed for survival on the distant planet. But the tech entrepreneur, who is also a craft beer lover, soon realized that his machine could also be used to help smaller breweries collect and reuse carbon dioxide the same way larger brewers already do.

Related: The Best Brewery Tour of the US According to Science

Typically, smaller brewers simply let carbon dioxide – one of the byproducts of fermentation – escape during the brewing process and then bring in different carbon dioxide to add bubbles to their beer later down the line. Pioneer Energy’s CO2 Craft Brewery Recovery System which was developed to capture C02 on Mars, allows breweries with smaller capacities, up to 60,000 barrels per year, to reuse their own carbon dioxide, saving them money and effort. “Our system produces about five tons of carbon dioxide per month,” Zubrin said in a NASA statement. On average, brewers will pay between $200 and $300 per ton of CO2. And since the machine was designed for travel across the solar system, it is lightweight and easy to operate without a huge staff.

With all the wonderful brewing that’s happening on Earth, it makes you wonder why anyone would even want to go to Mars. I’m pretty sure those rovers have yet to uncover any cool new hop varieties.