Bottles of Bordeaux Headed to the International Space Station for Aging Experiment
Researchers hypothesize one year in orbit could have an effect on the wine.
A couple of years ago, NASA conducted a first-of-its-kind study to help the agency understand how (or if) the human body could both adapt to and recover from a year spent in space. The participants in the Twins Study were astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly, who—spoiler alert—are also identical twins. While Scott spent 340 straight days on the International Space Station (ISS), Mark stayed here on Earth, and then the two were compared and contrasted by ten different research teams who analyzed everything from their gut bacteria to their gene expression.
Last week, a French entrepreneur and his Luxembourg-based startup literally launched their own NASA-approved study, but instead of splitting up a set of twins, they've divided two dozen bottles of wine, sending half of them to the ISS, while the other half stay here. The general idea is the same, though: Space Cargo Unlimited will wait twelve months, and then compare the wine that aged in space to the wine that didn't.
Both sets of bottles will be kept at a near-constant temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit, and they'll be untouched for the full year. The researchers have hypothesized that when the bottles are finally opened, there will be subtle taste differences between the two.
"We postulate that keeping these samples for a while on the ISS with this context of microgravity and micro-radiation could impact those bacterias and presumably it could have a positive impact," Professor Philippe Darriet, the experiment's science advisor and one of the University of Bordeaux-based researchers who will analyze the wine when it returns to earth, told Quartz.
Although these are the first bottles of wine to "boldly go…" and all that, it's not the first booze that has gone to space. Budweiser has conducted multiple experiments on the ISS, mostly to see how those conditions affect barley seeds during the malting process.
"Results from this research could help the company develop new malt barley varieties that are more tolerant to extreme stress environments and could also provide valuable insight for the general agricultural community," the company said last fall. (And the company says that it's using all of this info so it will know how to brew beer on Mars, you know, after we've all wrecked this planet and need to U-Haul ourselves to another one.)
And in 2011, a vial of unmatured malt from the Ardbeg Scotch whisky distillery was sent to the ISS, and it ultimately spent three years in space. When Dr. Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg’s director of distilling, finally tasted it in 2017, it definitely sounded...uh...different, with notes of "antiseptic smoke, rubber and smoked fish," and an overall "meaty" aroma.
"When I nosed and tasted the space samples, it became clear that much more of Ardbeg’s smoky, phenolic character shone through—to reveal a different set of smoky flavors which I have not encountered here on earth before," he said at the time.
If you're interested in getting a bottle of that ISS-aged wine, you totally can—but it'll cost you seven-figures. The wine is part of a "luxury goods project," that allows the project's wealthy patrons to own a variety of objects that have all spent time in space.
Option B? You could just buy a bottle of decent red and sneak it into an afternoon showing of Ad Astra. Totally your call.