Dude Hold My Beer

If you are more than a year out of your college days the thought of being upside down while drinking your bodyweight in beer isn’t cool anymore. But if you even a little into socializing you understand that alcohol is an important tool for our monkey minds as we seek the company of others. Do astronauts drink now? Does alcohol work different in space? Lets see what Tony is up to, and learn more.

The Fun Part

October 31, 2028
Lagrange 1, ~200,000 miles from Earth

“Shit” thought Tony…”where am I”

Oh right…Lagrange One…damn it my head hurts…what happened last night?

As his mind struggled to put together a picture of what happened the night before Tony noticed what could only be a semebelense of vomit one the air vent above him.

“Fuck….I’m never going to hear the end of this” he thought as he began to remember the celebration his team had after their first successful rendezvous with one of the company’s lunar fuel shuttles.

The crew had been on the station for about six weeks monitoring the automated fuel processing station that had been setup on the moon earlier in the year.

Tony’s crew was the first to actually receive anything from there after months of delays. But now that the system was up and running; converting ice to rocket fuel and water, there would be a shuttle arriving roughly once a every 10 days.

“Man, I never thought I would be a hundred thousand miles out and getting wasted” Tony mused. “Then again…why did I think that Stella wouldn’t bring booze for us.”

I just hope the rest of the team got similarly shit faced…there is nothing like being the only one…and there isn’t enough happening up here for them to forget.

The Real Deal

The idea of drinking alcohol in space has been around at least since man landed on the moon. That’s when Buzz Aldrin took communion and drank a glass of wine. NASA doesn’t really want you to know about that, more so because of a separation of church and state than because there’s anything wrong with an astronaut consuming a little vino.

Neil Armstrong while Buzz is taking communion

But Aldrin did drink alcohol in space, which proves it can be done, and he wasn’t the only one to do so. It just isn’t allowed…at least not by NASA.

History of Booze in Space

In the 1970s, in order to combat what was seen as the terrible food being served to astronauts, for a very brief time NASA allowed sherry to be consumed during Skylab missions. The reason for selecting sherry, according to “The Astronaut’s Cookbook,” was that according to “several professors at the University of California at Davis, it was decided that a Sherry would work best because any wine flown would have to be repackaged. Sherry is a very stable product, having been heated during the processing. Thus, it would be the least likely to undergo changes if it were to be repackaged.”

But it never made it. During a public lecture, Skylab 4 commander Gerry Carr happened to mention the inclusion of sherry in the meal packages for the next mission. The public was so enraged that astronauts would be consuming alcohol that the idea was scrapped before it ever got off the ground. Literally. Since then, NASA has had a very strict ban on alcohol in space.

Astronauts Tom Stafford and Deke Slayton with tubes of vodka during an Apollo/Soyuz link-up in 1975…pre-prohibition 2.0

The Russians, on the other hand, have historically had a looser policy, with doctors recommending the cosmonauts on the Mir space station actually drink Cognac to keep their immune systems healthy. And there actually is some scientific evidence to support this claim. A 2011 paper found that resveratrol “could be envisaged as a nutritional countermeasure for spaceflight.” Basically, it’s good for you.

Despite the Russians’ encouragement of alcohol consumption in space, the International Space Station is a dry facility.  Well mostly dry…the astronauts there did actually brew beer as part of an experiment in the early 2000s. And there have been other alcohol related experiments including testing how whiskey ages in space.

What will we drink in space

Beer and champagne are poorly suited to space parties because of the gas they include. Without gravity to draw liquids to the bottoms of their stomachs, leaving gases at the top, astronauts tend to produce wet burps. Which if you have never heard or experience are neither fun nor attractive.

This obstacles isn’t stopping others from trying to troubleshoot beer in space. One startup called Vostok is trying to develop the world’s first space beer in order to tap into the space tourism market early. It’s currently working out a formula of a low-carbolated beer that will reduce the chances of contending with wet burps.

You might think that beer in space sounds great, but in all likelihood, private companies that want to offer space tourists a little something for the ride will likely just stick to wine and liquor and avoid the bubbly mess.

“That’s one of the reasons why we don’t have carbonated beverages on the space menu,” said NASA spokesperson William Jeffs who clearly didn’t want to talk about why the space menu didn’t include fun drinks.

From left are Hibiki 12-year-old, Yamazaki 18 and 12-year-old Japanese whiskys, three of the types of whiskey Suntory sent to space (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Ok so if beer and champagne are out, and vodka isn’t your thing, then maybe just stick with whiskey. Suntory, a Japanese distillery, has sent a number of different types of its whiskey to space in order to study the effects of micro-gravity on the flavor. No word yet on the results, but with Suntory winning a number of awards for having the best whiskey on Earth, they may be looking to seize the best whiskey in space award early.

Won’t getting drunk in space suck?

There is a widely held belief that getting sloshed at higher altitudes makes you feel woozier faster. So it would seem logical to assume drinking alcohol while in orbit could have even more bizarre effects on humans. But this notion may not actually be true.

In fact, there is evidence that debunks this myth that dates back to the 1980s. In 1985, the US Federal Aviation Administration conducted a study that monitored whether alcohol consumed at simulated altitudes affected performances of complex tasks and breathalyser readings.

In the study, 17 men were asked to down some vodka both at ground level and in a chamber that simulated an altitude of 12,500 ft. They were then asked to complete tasks including mental math, tracking lights on an oscilloscope with a joystick, and a variety of other tests. The researchers found “there was no interactive effect of alcohol and altitude on either breathalyzer readings or performance scores.”

The idea of altitude affecting drunkenness probably comes from people who claim to have got drunk on a plane, in a way that’s faster than normal. But this is probably the “think-drink” effect, which has been studied extensively over the years. It suggests that people are going to act more drunk if they think they are drunk — not if they’ve actually been consuming alcohol.

So that might be the good new part of this whole post…you still can drink in space…and it probably won’t fuck you up too much…assuming you don’t work for NASA…those prudes 🙂

Next Time

So last time I didn’t have a clue what I was going to write next – but this time – I decided t o plan ahead and look at how the ‘f’ are we going to cook in zero-g. Seems like it would be difficult to cook more than my pizza, but lets see how hard it really is.

If you get tired of waiting for that – feel free to check out earlier posts about food, or printing things in space, or email me using the form below to let me know what you want to know about.

1 thought on “Dude Hold My Beer

  1. Pingback: Shaken Or Stirred? – Humanity in Space

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.