“Space beer,” one giant leap for mankind

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With NASA talking of a promising future in space tourism, Australians can be sure they won’t be short of their favourite beverage – beer – when they holiday on Mars, thanks to researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), who are helping to create the world’s first “space beer.”

The scientists at the new microgravity research facility, “Drop Tower,” at QUT have been testing the effect of zero-gravity on the carbonation and palatability of beer.

The microgravity tower, which is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere and one of only a few world-wide, is able to simulate the low gravity level present in space, here on Earth.

QUT’s Research Facility Director, Professor Ted Steinberg, a former NASA researcher, said researchers, government agencies, and businesses, like private space research company Saber Astronautics Australia and Sydney’s 4-Pines Brewing Company – the companies behind the new space brew – were using the tower as a stepping stone to sending their experiments into space.

Experiments were conducted at the QUT tower to analyse the properties of beer in microgravity conditions. Beer was loaded into a 400kg metal capsule, winched 27 metres to the top of the tower and then released, allowing the “space beer” to freefall and experience two seconds of microgravity prior to bringing it to a rest at the bottom of the tower.

"Two seconds may seem like a little time, but it is a lot for studying a very large variety of phenomena in reduced gravity such as combustion of metals, fire safety, certain biological processes and fluid dynamics," Prof Steinberg said in a statement.

"For example, many metals burn more easily in reduced gravity, liquids behave differently, both of which have important implications for safety and the way machinery and equipment operate in spacecraft and space stations. The beer experiments assisted in determining the correct level of carbonation, so that it can in the future be appropriately enjoyed by humans in reduced gravity,” he said.

In February, a taste-test was conducted on the “space beer” in the United States by the Zero Gravity Corporation. An astronaut aboard a parabolic trajectory microgravity flight out of Cape Canaveral, Florida drank 6 x 150ml samples of "space beer," which passed taste and carbonation tests.

Image: Professor Ted Steinberg at QUT’s "Drop Tower", Source: news.qut.edu.au