Craft beer may seem like it has hit its saturation point here on Earth, but a group of University of California, San Diego students has set its sights on a completely new market: the moon. Ten undergraduates from the Jacobs School of Engineering, going by the name Team Original Gravity, are finalists in a competition seeking experiments for a lunar launch scheduled later this year. If chosen, their small brewing project would be the first time beer has ever been brewed on the moon or in space.
The Lab2Moon competition is being held by TeamIndus, an Indian startup contracted through the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge to launch a spacecraft to the moon this coming December. From an initial pool of 3,000 entries, Team Original Gravity’s brewing project is one of just 25 finalists. “The idea started out with a few laughs amongst a group of friends,” Neeki Ashari, one of the students involved, said according to UC San Diego. “We all appreciate the craft of beer, and some of us own our own home-brewing kits. When we heard that there was an opportunity to design an experiment that would go up on India’s moonlander, we thought we could combine our hobby with the competition by focusing on the viability of yeast in outer space.”
Because of the obvious constraints of sending a brewery to the moon, Team Original Gravity’s project is a highly simplified and condensed take on brewing beer. The unfermented “wort” would be prepared on Earth, leaving just the fermentation step to occur once the lander hits the surface of the moon. Additionally, carbonation would happen during this step as well to avoid the need to release any excess carbon dioxide (as usually happens during fermentation). All this would occur in a fermentation vessel about the size of a soda can – making it what the students believe would be one of the smallest beer fermenters ever.
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“Our canister is designed based on actual fermenters,” explained Srivaths Kaylan, the team’s mechanical lead. “It contains three compartments – the top will be filled with the unfermented beer, and the second will contain the yeast. When the rover lands on the moon with our experiment, a valve will open between the two compartments, allowing the two to mix. When the yeast has done it’s job, a second valve opens and the yeast sink to the bottom and separate from the now fermented beer.”
A few important details have gotten glossed over, however. The type of beer isn’t mentioned, nor is who would get to drink it once it returns to this planet. But I guess those things aren’t necessarily important to science. Much like how I used to say back when I was in college, as long as it has alcohol, I think everyone will be happy.
Sadly, according to Lab2Moon’s website, only one winner will be chosen, meaning the dream of beer on the moon is still far from being a reality. However, fingers crossed: The announcement will happen on March 15.