The International Space Station said goodbye on Tuesday to 12 bottles of French Bordeaux wine and hundreds of vine extracts that have spent a year orbiting the world in the name of science.
SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule came off with wine and vines – and thousands of pounds of other equipment and research, including mice – and was targeting a Wednesday night dive in the Gulf of Mexico off Tampa.
The target had been the Atlantic Ocean, but bad weather moved the finish to the other side of Florida. SpaceX’s supply ships have parachuted into the Pacific.
The carefully packaged wine – each bottle tucked inside a steel cylinder to prevent breakage – remained corked aboard the orbiting lab. Space Cargo Unlimited, a Luxembourg startup behind the experiments, wanted the wine to age for an entire year up there.
None of the bottles will be opened until the end of February. This is when the company will open a bottle or two for an extraordinary wine tasting in Bordeaux by some of the greatest French connoisseurs and experts. Months of chemical testing will follow. Researchers are eager to see how space altered sedimentation and bubbles.
In search of agricultural solutions
Agricultural science is the primary focus, said Nicolas Gaume, CEO and co-founder of Space Cargo Unlimited, although he admits it will be fun to taste the wine. He’ll be one of the lucky few to take a sip.
“Our goal is to find a solution to have tomorrow an agriculture that is both organic, healthy and capable of feeding humanity, and we believe that space is the key”, declared Gaume de Bordeaux.
With climate change, Gaume said agricultural products like grapes will have to adapt to more difficult conditions. Through a series of space experiments, Space Cargo Unlimited hopes to build on what has been learned from stressing plants in zero gravity and make them more hardy and resilient plants on Earth.
There is another advantage. La Gaume expects that future explorers on the Moon and Mars will want to enjoy some of the pleasures of Earth.
“Being French is part of life to have good food and good wine,” he told The The Bharat Express News.
Gaume said private investors had helped fund the experiments. He declined to provide the cost of the project.
Wine made it to the space station in November 2019 aboard a Northrop Grumman supply ship. The 320 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vine extracts – called canes in the wine industry – were launched by SpaceX last March.
SpaceX is the only shipper capable of delivering space station experiences and other intact objects. Other cargo capsules are filled with garbage and burn when they enter Earth’s atmosphere.