They are not for everyone, but theres no doubt that alcoholic beverages have been part of human culture for as long as there has been human culture. And theres no reason to think booze wont follow us across the solar system. Host Mat Kaplan talks with Chris Carberry about his comprehensive and eye-opening book, Alcohol in Space: Past, Present and Future. The December Solstice edition of The Planetary Report has just been published online. Editor-in-chief Emily Lakdawalla provides an enticing overview of its contents. Weve also got headlines from The Downlink, and a glance at the crowded night sky in Whats Up.
What are the names of the first two modules joined to form the core of the International Space Station?
What is the largest known object in our solar system that, as of now, has NOT been visited by a spacecraft? Flybys count. The Sun does not.
The winner will be revealed next week.
What is the new or relatively new name for the most distant object visited by a spacecraft?
Arrokoth is the new name for the most distant object visited by a spacecraft. It had been informally called Ultima Thule by the New Horizons team.
Mat K.: [00:00:00] What? More beer in space? How about cognac? This week on Planetary Radio. Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of The Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. We humans have brought along our spirits, the liquid kind, wherever we have roamed. Chris Carberry says they will follow us across the final frontier. We'll talk with him about his new book called, what else, Alcohol in Space. It's about much more, including the embryonic attempts at space agriculture. You'll be glad to hear Emily Lakdawalla's back with a brand new edition of The Planetary Report, and we'll have some fun later with the chief scientist. Bruce Betts has another space trivia quiz in store, along with a meteor shower. We'll open with these sample headlines from The Downlink, presented by Planetary Society Editorial Director, Jason Davis.
There's no bigger news in [00:01:00] this week's Downlink than the decisions made last week about funding for the European Space Agency. ESA will move forward with the Hera mission, a spacecraft that will visit asteroid Didymos in 2026 after it has been smacked by NASA's dark probe. The resulting data will provide invaluable guidance as we work toward the ability to deflect near Earth objects. That same budget will pay for a Mars rover designed to retrieve the surface samples collected years earlier by NASA's 2020 rover, and then boost them toward a European orbiter that will return them to anxious scientists on Earth.
And then there's the moon. ESA will build two components of the lunar gateway, a refueling and communications module and, in collaboration with Japan, a habitat for visiting humans. The agency is also working on a large lunar lander. There's more waiting for you every Friday at [00:02:00] planetary.org/downlink. Here is the Planetary Society Senior Editor and Editor-in-Chief of its magazine, Emily Lakdawalla. Emily, I have had a- a preview exposure to the December solstice edition of The Planetary Report. It is outstanding once again, no less than I expected. And I'm glad that you're, uh, here to give us a little overview. Tell us about some of the highlights.
Emily L.: Well, the main highlights for this issue are the- the feature articles we have contributed by Abigail Fraeman and Javier Gomez-Elvira on, uh, what we learned looking back at the Mars exploration rover missions, and then looking forward at what we're going to do with the coming rover missions to further the search for life on Mars.
Mat K.: Of course, Abigail is an old favorite of ours, uh, particularly talking about spirit and opportunity. But now she's part of the curiosity mission, right?
Emily L.: Absolutely. Yeah. Abigail, I first met when she was in high school. She was one of my red rover goes to Mars student astronauts. She was lovely then and is lovely today, and I couldn't be prouder of the fact that she [00:03:00] is now deputy project scientist for the Mars exploration rover missions, and like you say, very involved with the curiosity mission.
Mat K.: What a success story she has been. Uh, can you tell us something about, uh, Javier? Uh, it is he who looks to the future of exploration on Mars.
Emily L.: That's right. He, for some time, headed the Centro de Astrobiologa in Spain, so the center for astrobiology. And astrobiology is obviously the main topic if you're looking for life on Mars. So I asked him in particular to look forward because ExoMars is a mission that's really hoping to, um, advance the search for life on Mars today with its deep drill. So it has a drill that can get down about two meters beneath the surface. In Javier's article, he explains the different kinds of signs of- of life, mostly evidence of past life, that we're looking for in the rocks that, uh, ExoMars will be able to drill.
Mat K.: You got all the other, uh, usual features in the magazine. There's lots more to look forward to.
Emily L.: Absolutely. There's a whole lot going on across the solar system. You get that in the, uh, Where We Are feature that I put in. And we [00:04:00] also kind of come back to Earth a little bit, with Frank [inaudible 00:04:03], for instance, about why we explore the solar system, and with a neat little, uh, image feature on the way that we simulate Pluto in the laboratory here on Earth with [inaudible 00:04:11].
Mat K.: This, uh, edition of The Planetary Report also is sort of a right of passage, I suppose. I'm not too sad to say that you're gonna be moving on. I'm not sad because of what you'll be- what you'll be returning to.
Emily L.: I've, uh, helmed The Planetary Report for slightly less than two years. In that time, I've transformed it from, um, the publication it was before. I've- I've added a bunch of cool things, I think, including infographics and some new features featuring the kinds of people involved in space missions. I've, uh, changed the way we report The Planetary Society's activities and I'm really proud of what I did with the magazine, but I found out, being an editor wasn't really my bag. I wanna write.
Mat K.: [laughs].
Emily L.: I desperately wanna write and I have not had time. So, um, I am stepping aside from the editorship in order [00:05:00] that I can get back to doing what I think I do best, which is to explain science and engineering to the public. And I'll be doing a lot more of that in The Planetary Report and on our website going forward. I'm not actually completely stepping aside. I'll still be involved in helping to find great authors for the feature articles. I'll still be writing the, uh, snapshots from space and working on a couple of the other more educational content features there, but I'll have a lot more time to write from now on.
Mat K.: In that case, we'll get the best of both worlds or, considering who we are, the best of all worlds.
Emily L.: [laughs].
Mat K.: Thank you, Emily.
Emily L.: You're welcome, Mat.
Mat K.: That's Emily Lakdawalla, Senior Editor at The Planetary Society, and, at least still for the moment, Editor-in-Chief of The Planetary Report, uh, where she has done outstanding work. And you can read that, uh, edition, that December solstice edition of The Planetary Report at planetary.org. Of course, our members will be getting the printed copy.
It's the holiday season here in the U.S. and across much of the world. That means our thoughts turn to loved [00:06:00] ones, cherished memories and hope for a better future. That future is likely defined some of us in Earth orbit and beyond, even after nearly 60 years of human space travel, there are huge questions that must be answered if we are to become a space faring species. Making or drinking alcoholic beverages in space might not be at the top of many list but there is history here and there are efforts underway that might result in far more than the ability to enjoy a cold one on Mars.
These topics and much more are in the new book by Chris Carberry. Chris is the Co-Founder and CEO of Explore Mars, Inc. and has written extensively about space topics, but this is his first book. Chris, thanks so much for joining me on Planetary Radio, actually, rejoining me because this is far from the first time we've talked, there are all those, uh, times we've spoken at the Humans to Mars Summit that, uh, you run on behalf of Explore Mars where you are the CEO, and, uh, [00:07:00] maybe we'll be able to talk about what's coming up for the 2020, uh, summit in Washington DC toward the end of today's conversation. Of course, the major topic is this book that I've enjoyed reading, Alcohol in Space, Past, Present and Future. Uh, it's out now from McFarland & Company. I enjoyed it enormously. Thanks for this, Chris.
Chris C.: Well, thank you, Mat. It was a lot of fun writing it. And an unusual topic but a very real topic as you saw and is based on a lot of research and a lot of interesting stories and a fascinating number of organizations actually trying to figure out if alcohol- alcohol can be manufactured in space.
Mat K.: And you cover a lot of ground here. Now if somebody was just to look at the- the fairly fanciful cover, which has this, um, astronaut in full EVA regalia holding a- a frosty glass of something, with another one in the background sidling up to a, uh, uh, it looks like a bar maybe [inaudible 00:07:57]. Between these and Andy Weir, author Andy [00:08:00] Weir's very entertaining forward, people might think that this is just for laughs, but you clearly did a lot of research putting this together.
Chris C.: Absolutely. As you mentioned, yeah, the cover is a bit, you know, [laughs] comical, but the topic-
Mat K.: It's fine.
Chris C.: ... while I- while I do try to keep it lighthearted, is very real and it's based on a lot of research. As you may know, actually, I come from a research background. I... before my career in space exploration, I actually was a research historian, an archivist, and I did a lot of research helping authors writing biographies and histories. So I put that same sort of discipline into writing this book and trying to get as much firsthand information as possible. And I interviewed probably 50 or 60, um, experts in various fields, former astronauts, people from the alcohol industry, from science fiction community, historians, technologists and people, experts in agriculture as well, trying to b... put together a- [00:09:00] a large picture to show not only why this is inevitable that there'll be alcohol in space, and frankly, already has been, but why it's played such a prominent role in history and why it's likely to move forward.
Mat K.: And among those, uh, people that you talked to, my boss, uh, the CEO of The Planetary Society, Bill Nye, who I suspect would not, uh, refuse a nice glass of Bordeaux or- or some other libation in space.
Chris C.: Yeah, I suspect you're correct there. And I should note, it's very timely with the release in this book because 12 bottles of Bordeaux were launched to ISS just last month for an aging experiment.
Mat K.: [laughs].
Chris C.: So even since the book has come out, they have an additional alcohol related experiment sent into space, so I'm glad you mentioned Bordeaux [laughs].
Mat K.: Well, long before humans brought alcohol into space, uh, alcohol was no stranger, was it, to the space between the stars?
Chris C.: Uh, yeah, very correct there. We've- we've discovered large, enormous clouds of [00:10:00] ethanol and methanol in space, too far away for us to go, not likely we could go and [inaudible 00:10:05] and have a drink but nonetheless, it's already been there, um, naturally occurring, well, obviously, for billions and billions of years.
Mat K.: Maybe someday, somebody will invent a- a bizarre ramjet to collect alcohol and bottle it in, uh, in the deep reaches of space.
Chris C.: Maybe. It will be an interesting marketing. People were looking for some sort of market in space, you can find a way of collecting that.
Mat K.: [laughs]. I'm not gonna hold my breath, uh, or my glass. Um, uh, you- you start with much more recently, but, uh, a history, uh, humanities history with alcohol that goes back really far. I mean, it's a brief history, you don't intend it to be exhaustive, but it does show that, uh, booze has accompanied us wherever we've gone and- and, uh, it seems that you expect that it will follow us across the solar system.
Chris C.: Well, absolutely. And I thought [00:11:00] that chapter was extremely important. Without context, I think what could be far less effective to show that alcohol has played an integral role in human culture from the very beginning. We have evidence of intentional fermentation way back over 10,000 years. It's been part of human culture. And many... there are many experts who believe that the desire for an alcoholic beverage actually may have played more of a role in the development of early agriculture than the actual desire for food [laughs]. And of course, agriculture was one of the enabling, uh, technologies for civilization.
But throughout society, it's played a critical role, not always a good one. There's no question that alcohol is a dark... there's a dark side to alcohol but sometimes, we ignore the very positive things, roles that alcohol played throughout human civilization, whether it be in diplomacy, to social gatherings, religion, as I mentioned before, agriculture. It's been [00:12:00] constantly a part of human culture all through history, and I don't expect that's gonna stop once we start exploring space, particularly if we can finally get private sectors, space exploration or astronauts going into space, private tourists, or if there were settlers going off to new worlds, like the moon or Mars, in almost certainty that they will actually want to drink [laughs], probably smuggle it along with them, but eventually start manufacturing their own alcohol in space.
Mat K.: Yeah. And Andy Weir, who we've already mentioned, wrote the forward for the book. He says he fully agrees with you and in fact, his most recent novel, Artemis, uh, there is alcohol in that base on the moon, oh, it's really a vacation community. Um, alcohol plays a pretty important part there. I guess I shouldn't be surp... shouldn't have been surprised that, uh, alcohol has been along for the ride almost from the beginning of space travel.
Chris C.: Yeah, absolutely. At the beginning, at the early part of the space ex... yeah, [00:13:00] space program, um, alcohol, we sent up a number of times these gags, like for instance, in Apollo 8, uh, three bottles of brandy were sent up. Um, they didn't drink them but, you know, they were sent up more as a gag for their holiday meals. You recall, it was there around the Christm- Christmas time, holiday season, when Apollo 8 was up there. Uh, and of course, in my book, I note Jim Lovell's bottle, obviously unconsumed, was auctioned off for a large amount. I can't remember off the top of my head what it was auctioned off for. But there were also other occurrences, like this has been a well-documented one, [inaudible 00:13:34] performed a, uh, communion ceremony on the surface of the moon and consumed, um, wine as part of it.
To my knowledge, this is the only time in human history, somebody has consumed wine or any other alcoholic beverage on another planetary body. But even more recently, I think we've seen tales of, we've heard about, heard the rumor about alcohol on for... the former Mir space [00:14:00] station and on the International Space Station. Well, it has occurred. Well, people say there must be a lot of vodka up on Mir in the past or the Russian section of ISS. Uh, that's actually not entirely correct, not vodka. The preferred drink in space has actually been cognac. And so cognac has been smuggled up over time, not in huge amounts, and this is where I think a lot of the misperceptions have taken place.
It has taken place, people do cons- consume alcohol in space, but usually, in small amounts, you know, small, little shots hanging in the air, these little orbs of cognac, you know, in the air in microgravity.
Mat K.: [laughs].
Chris C.: I think it served an interesting role. It's not just the Russians. They have, um, from the reports I've seen, they occasionally have these little receptions where you get the international crew together for s... you know, special events and they all come together and bond. And I actually think it's played an interesting and important [00:15:00] diplomatic role to, um, be able to bond the crews, his international crews and sometimes, a challenging situation. I have not encountered one report, that doesn't mean there... it hasn't happened, but haven't, uh, encountered one report of over-consumption, inebriation in space. It sounds like it's all been quite, um, responsible and in such small amounts, it would not cause inebriation.
Mat K.: More from Chris Carberry about alcohol in space is just ahead. I am very happy to once again welcome back The Great Courses Plus. It's the educational streaming surface that makes learning very easy and accessible, and there are thousands of lectures on practically any topic that you can think of, with the best, and I'm really serious here, I have never taken one of these courses or- or completed one of these courses, that wasn't delivered by an absolutely fantastic professor. And the one that I wanna recommend this [00:16:00] week, I'd mentioned it before, it's Apollo 11, Lessons for All Time. Not one, four different professors, each of them exploring a different aspect of Apollo 11. It is an absolutely terrific course and you can listen, you know, whenever it's convenient, your lunch break, at the gym, in the kitchen.
Uh, they make it so easy to do this because it's all streamed directly to you. You can hear this course for free. Go to thegreatcoursesplus.com/planetary for access to the full Great Courses Plus library for one month. That's thegreatcoursesplus.com/planetary. Happy learning.
We all know how alcohol can sometimes, uh, and maybe frequently lubricates social relationships. I was also... it was very interesting, uh, how you revealed how good Russian and other astronauts have gotten at, uh, [00:17:00] hiding, uh, secreting, uh, little packets of, uh, alcohol, uh, that they can, you know, they're not officially allowed to bring up into space, but apparently, the Russian officials kind of looked the other way. I mean, some of them actually think it's, uh, it maybe, uh, healthy, uh, for personally, not just for social, uh, social lubrication.
Chris C.: No, absolutely. It... well, it is formally, officially prohibited within the sp... Russian space program as well, it's not as strictly adhered to [laughs] as it is with NASA. And so, yeah, you... there are a lot of quotes and various Russian officials and cosmonauts think it's healthy for them to drink it, primarily just something to help them, um, relax after a har- hard day's work. Uh, I- I don't disagree with that. But as you mentioned, now I don't disagree with the official prohibition, but I think- I think it has played an interesting important role and frankly, a healthy role in some regards.
But as for the smuggling, yeah, they've come up [00:18:00] with, from what I read, some, um, astronauts and cosmonauts are allowed to bring up a certain amount of weight, their weight, carry some things along with them.
Mat K.: Sure.
Chris C.: There were some reports of cosmonauts intentionally losing weight before their lunch so they could bring up that amount of weight worth of cognac-
Mat K.: [laughs].
Chris C.: ... you know, or hiding it, you know, in places like [inaudible 00:18:21] books or other places like that. One of the places where they al- also would do this by sticking it in their suits, ideal with this and the book as well, kind of some of the interesting, um, traditions, preflight traditions. The Russians have some, um, extremely rigid preflight tra- traditions based on what Yuri Gagarin did before his flight. And there's this famous story of Gagarin having to, well, uh, urinate [laughs] before going, getting to the rocket, getting out of the bus and, you know, urinating on the back of a tire of the transport vehicle.
So now, everybody going up through the Russian space program, they go through [00:19:00] this regimented process, get out of the bus and either urinate on the back of the tire or pretend they're urinating on the back of the tire [laughs]. That's al- also a place where a lot of people, well, I've heard, occasionally find that opportunity to stick something in their space suits [laughs].
Mat K.: [laughs]. And- and I will point out that, uh, uh, this is not, uh, too sexist. Uh, the women who, uh, are going up on the [inaudible 00:19:26], uh, have been known to bring a small container of something that may or may not be, uh, urine, uh, and splash it against the... that tire.
Chris C.: Well, yeah. I- I should've mentioned that. Yeah. This is not just for men. Yeah, the women go through this, uh, tradition as well but obviously have to do it in a different way.
Mat K.: Well, maybe we'll leave that topic alone for now. But [laughs]...
Chris C.: [laughs].
Mat K.: And not pursue that, but you do have an entire chapter as well, uh, about, uh, the role of alcohol in science fiction. Uh, I just finished rereading a collection of Arthur C. Clarke's short stories, and as you know, there are [00:20:00] some very fun ones that are set in this fictitious pub, The White Hart pub-
Chris C.: Yeah, yeah.
Mat K.: ... and, uh, you give them honorable mention in y- in your... in this chapter.
Chris C.: Yeah, I do. And I'd certainly, I probably missed a lot of... well, I know I missed a lot 'cause I intentionally, [inaudible 00:20:14] mentioned all of them so people, I probably missed a lot of people's favorite alcohol stories and science fiction, but once again, it's been, not... maybe not critical, but a really key part of a lot of different science fiction, from practically the beginning, not even practically, the beginning of science fiction, yeah, Jules Verne had it and H.G. Wells talked about it, moving forward in literature, you know, with, uh, Ray Bradbury, uh, Martian Chronicles, it was wine, you know, available and they would make, you know, be able to make it.
In television and movies, we certainly see a lot of it, you know. In Star Trek, we all know about, um, Ten Forward on the Enterprise or [crosstalk 00:20:55].
Mat K.: I've had a rum, mule and ale or two.
Chris C.: Hey, rum, mule and ale. And there's even a, [00:21:00] um, a science fiction bar which I mentioned on Hollywood Boulevard, in Hollywood, called the Scum and Villainy Cantina-
Mat K.: [laughs].
Chris C.: ... obviously based on modeled on the Star Wars bar, and they serve all these different science fiction themed drinks. Long [laughs]- long story still long, [laughs] um, you know.
Mat K.: [laughs].
Chris C.: I just go over this, looking at the different television and movies and how all the different science fiction authors are... have incorporated. They just generally assume it's gonna be part of life in the future in space because it's- it's so natural. It's such a part, key part of human civilization is not likely to go away.
Mat K.: Sure seems that way. Uh, let's turn back to, uh, the factual side of alcohol in space. Just last week, we featured the work of, uh, this small company in Kentucky called Space Tango, and as you know, because you mentioned them in the book, they are working on many projects, but one of them is with, uh, Anheuser-Busch, uh, [00:22:00] which, uh, so many of us know as the- the creator of the, uh, quote, King of Beers, unquote. Research that is exploring if not the creation of beer in space, at least how conditions in space, and especially microgravity might change the nature of beer's ingredients, and this is happening on the International Space Station. But they're not alone, are they?
Chris C.: Uh, no, they're not. As you mentioned, with Anheuser-Busch, Budweiser, they wanna be the king of beers on Mars.
Mat K.: [laughs].
Chris C.: Uh, they actually announced this south by southwest in, um, 2017 that they wanted to be the first beer manufacturer on Mars, they backed this up with actual real research, as you mentioned, with Space Tango, um, they've sent up, um, barley experiments to ISS. But they're not the only ones. Right now, there is still whiskey aging onboard ISS through Suntory, the, uh, Japanese, uh, whiskey maker. They sent a couple of batches up several years ago. One batch came back already, the others still [00:23:00] aging up there. They have been pretty closed lipped. They haven't been actually expressed too much in result, so we haven't heard much from Suntory.
But one company we have heard from was the first company to do an aging experiment for whiskey in space, that was Ardbeg, a Scottish whiskey maker. They sent up a, um, sample in 20... when was it? 2011, came back 2015, I believe. And it was a quickly put together experiment, so, uh, they- they conceived that. But the difference between the space flown one and the example that was left on the ground was remarkable. It was a lot different. They report that it had kind of an antiseptic taste to it. It was definitely a lot different than the ground sample. And so they're not sure if that was a result of the actual aging in microgravity or if it had to do with the not so gentle handling, you know. There's a lot of shaking on launching and landing.
Mat K.: Yeah.
Chris C.: And so it may have had more, may have been more result of that than the actual aging in space. But [00:24:00] last I heard, they were planning another experiment, taking all this into account and trying to do a more authentic aging experiment. There were a lot of other companies looking at other aspects as well. As I mentioned, the 12 bottles of Bordeaux that were launched up to ISS last month, an aging experiment for wine. There've also been companies, not- not- not necessarily launching their stuff into space right now, but looking at, can you create beverages that you can consume pleasurably in space? And I mean pleasurably 'cause I'm talking about specifically alcoholic beverages that are carbonated.
Mat K.: Yes.
Chris C.: Carbonated beverages are a challenge in microgravity. Um, as you all know, when you're drinking a carbonated beverage in one- 1g on the surface [inaudible 00:24:46], the gas rises up and disperses into the atmosphere, well, it doesn't do that in space. It all goes to the center, congeals to the center and it does that on your stomach as well. So astronauts who have consumed [00:25:00] carbonated beverages, they've reported stomach cramps and wet burps, which is not a pleasurable drinking experience. There have beer company- companies and, actually, a champagne company looking at this problem. Uh, recently, the champagne company [inaudible 00:25:15] has been creating a, um, champagne or utilizing one of their champagnes but also created a bottle and a glass to try to dispense the champagne effectively but also a glass where they could actually drink out of a little champagne glass in microgravity.
They said they wanna do, enhance the conviviality of drinking champagne in space and then finding the right balance in their champagne so the carbonation didn't create problems. And they've tested this on the European version of the vomit comet. Another company on the beer side that created the, um, uh, beer, uh, Vostok, which was a collaborative between an aerospace company in a brewery in Australia trying to create a beer [00:26:00] that would actually have the right balance of carbonation but also the right taste. 'Cause another problem that the astronauts reported in space is their taste- taste buds are im- impacted. It kinda feel... a lot of astronauts feel as though, slight, you have a head cold or something, so it really diminishes your taste sensation. That's why a lot of astronauts like having hot spicy food, bringing up hot sauce, so Vostok created a beer utili- utilizing a, using a stout beer with a strong taste, but finding the right balance of carbonation.
And they have also tested that on, uh, uh, zero-G flight here in the U.S. trying to find and see if, first off, if you can drink it without feeling sick, but they're also trying to see how human bodies metabolize alcohol in space. But there are also companies working on different sort of glasses. There's a company, there are group trying to create a, um, scotch glass where you can sip scotch like you do on Earth [00:27:00] without it floating out of the glass, and also one for a cocktail glass [laughs].
Mat K.: Who wants to drink a cocktail or scotch out of a plastic bag?
Chris C.: I wouldn't, you know. Really, these- these- these little things do make a lot of difference. And this is another area where this technology going into it goes well beyond the need and desire to have a drink and drink it authentically. These companies are looking at all sorts of fluid dynamics and so these- these will have uses well beyond, whether we can have our scotch our our cocktails in a more authentic container in space.
Mat K.: You know, this touches on, uh, I- I think it was... may have been the last, uh, comment by Bill Nye that you quoted in the book, because he says, it- it's so hard to tell where R&D is going to take us. Could be that research into space booze could pay off an entirely unexpected and- and seemingly unrelated ways. I mean, this is pretty much what we've seen not just across, uh, space science, [00:28:00] uh, but across science.
Chris C.: Yeah, that's absolutely correct. As I've mentioned earlier, this is actually probably the most interesting thing I found in the book, and the most fascinating. Just in the potential for secondary benefits. Yeah, I certainly wanna be able to have a drink if I'm space. No question. I like a drink [laughs], but it's just fascinating, all the innovation, the technologies, the capabilities that are, well, what these companies are looking at, different organizations, whether it be creating these glasses or figuring out. Like for instance, there are lots of groups around the world looking whether you can grow crops in lunar soil or Martian soil, simulated, of course, some of which... some of whom have actually done it with the very purpose to see if you could grow or manufacture beer on Mars, et cetera.
So the more that we invest, you know, groups like this are investing in these technologies or looking at questions in a different way that the space program might not look at it, we might answer a lot of questions that might not have been [00:29:00] answered or at least answered in the same way if we had just looked the same problem in the usual manner. I think this is a great thing and it's not just alcohol. When more industries can start looking at different problems in space, I think that's only gonna help us advance space exploration, space settlement and create markets that were not there before.
Mat K.: And I'm so glad that you went in this direction, particularly mentioning these experiments with, uh, space agriculture, uh, uh, because you devote a chapter toward the end of the book to this topic. And the efforts that you described, some of them are much farther along than I thought. Are there a couple of these projects that- that you're most impressed by?
Chris C.: I was impressed by a lot of them. I thought this was another essential thing, kinda like the history of alcohol, basically give, once again, a- an overview of what's going on, what's happened in space agriculture, what's currently going on in some speculation moving forward. And there are literally dozens, if not more, experiments going on around the world. There's some up on the [00:30:00] International Space Station.
Mat K.: Uh, there's a European experiment, a sa, uh, uh, a, uh, a satellite.
Chris C.: Yeah. Eu:CROPIS' mission's really fascinating. It was launched, uh, I believe in December of last year. That's a satellite which is simulating both lunar and Martian gravity by spinning. And so there's a greenhouse inside, I believe, with tomato seeds, and there are also some synthetic biology experiments onboard the, um, that came from the United States. So they are experimenting on growing food, growing crops in various, uh, gravities. First, I believe the first one is just in microgravity as without it spinning. That will go to, um, spin up to one-sixth gravity, lunar gravity, then it'll start spinning a little bit more and go to one-third gravity simulating, uh, Martian gravity. So this will be the first time really in this sort of sustainable way that we've been able to grow crops in these simulated gravities. Very important. Has a lot of ramifications [00:31:00] also for other kinds of biology, like our own [laughs].
Mat K.: In many ways, this chapter about agriculture in space, perhaps because it's almost certain that some form of farming is going to be essential if we're going to, uh, both explore Mars and perhaps someday, a few people settle there or at least open up a research station there. We still know so little about how it might work.
Chris C.: Yeah. It's one of these critical technologies we don't talk about as much. Everybody always loves talking about, you know, which launch vehicle we're gonna use, which crew vehicle, land or et cetera, but if we wanna create sustainability anywhere off Earth, we need to learn how to grow crops in space. Small scale experiments have done one... have been done on ISS and earlier space stations. There are a couple, uh, greenhouses up there right now, the veggie greenhouse, but also, uh, Lada one, L-A-D-A, um, that grown crops, like [00:32:00] lettuce and similar things like that in small quantities, but there are also been a lot of experiments here on the surface experimenting with growing crops in, um, simulated lunar soil and simulated, even more so, simulated Martian soil.
But as I said, this is simulation. We can- we can create simulations and approximate what the lunar or this Martian soil [inaudible 00:32:23] is like. For instance, on Mars, we know there are perchlorates in the soil. And so perchlorates are known to be toxic to humans. Will that be a problem? Uh, if you- if you're able to grow a crop inside that, will the actual vegetables, will the plants absorb the toxin, so even if they grow, they're not gonna be consumable by the crew? It's a good question. And/or can we actually get rid of the perchlorates before growing crops in it?
In the book, I mentioned a number of people say in the book that you can get rid of perchlorate by burning it off or washing it off or there are certain [00:33:00] microbes you can bring that'll eat it away. So there are a lot of different questions but many of these questions, we're not going to know for sure until we actually get to Mars or the surface of the moon to see if we can actually grow things, grow crops in the soil.
Mat K.: So we have a lot to learn. In your final thoughts in the book, you mentioned several apparent opportunities, including your suggestion that the time may have come for professional association of some sort. What do you have in mind?
Chris C.: [laughs]. Funny. That's gonna be announced fairly soon. I guess...
A Toast to Alcohol in Space - The Planetary Society