Astronauts have it so easy now. The trade-off for traveling to space used to include sucking gross food out of toothpaste tubes. Now, not only can astronauts brew their own espresso while in orbit, they can also use special cups to enjoy it (almost) like those of us who are earthbound. Engineers at Portland State University designed the cups, which will be shot up to the International Space Station in early February.
The devices use geometry to control the movement of the espresso. The pointed corner at the front that makes the cup look a bit like an elf’s shoe actually helps to hold the liquid in the cup and direct it straight into an astronaut’s mouth when they put their lips on the spout and try to drink. This is a big step up from the way astronauts currently drink their space espresso—out of a pouch, like chocolate milk for middle schoolers. The cups are in their early stages of development, and right now it’s pricey to produce them. They are 3-D printed on the PSU campus and cost about $500 each. But lest you think this is just another expensive and pointless experiment, like seeing what happens when geckos have sex in space, the espresso cups can serve a more important purpose. Mechanical engineering professor Mark Weislogel believes that reusable cups like these can save both space and weight on future ships outfitted for longer missions, which matters quite a bit in an environment where you need to save every inch you can.
The cup in action, containing espresso in a low gravity environment.