Have you ever had a cocktail? I know I know silly question. But have you ever paid attention to how they are made? Do you think that would work if there was no gravity? Hint…the answer is no…so then…what are we supposed to do up in space if we (a) aren’t sober, (b) don’t like just straight liquor? Well, let’s see a promising solution.
The Fun Part
The InterContinental Geo
Geostationary Orbit , 28,000 miles above NYC
“This was never a problem on the moon, that’s why we never came up with a new way of doing this.” Jessica explained patiently. “When I was a bartender there it may not have been easy to mix drinks, but it sure was possible.”
Ken, Jessica’s boss, was eyeing the new device Jessica had brought over from the science facility.
“And just what do you plan on doing with that?” he asked.
“Well, for starters, actually make a drink that people on this floating hotel will enjoy. We already can’t serve beer because of how it fucks up people’s stomachs. And while wine and liquor are all well and good for you old people, some of us actually want more than one flavor in our drinks.”
“Yes yes yes I get all that Jess, but this looks like a $20,000 device, how can we justify buying one of these just so we can sell a handful more types of drinks?”
“First off Ken, it isn’t a handful more types, it is hundreds or thousands more. Second, even 30 years ago this was an $800 device back on Earth. So I am pretty confident we can get a non-science grade version of this for under $1,000.”
“Oh shit, well, $1,000 is an easy sell, next time lead with how cheap it is going to be.”
“Right…next time I come up with a game changing way of mixing drinks in zero-g I’ll do that.”
The Real Deal
So there are two problems with cocktails in space…or really just drinking in space (other than the current NASA ban). The first is mixing drinks, and the second is drinking the drinks. While they are both physics problems, the first requires a more technologically sophisticated solution than the second. Lets start with the mixing.
Martini…Spun Not Stirred
How do you do it when there isn’t anything that pulls the liquid down? You might not think that is an issue, but look at what is happening when you stir your coffee in the morning…there is a downspout that forms, pulling liquid down. That won’t happen in space…so now what?
Enter the centrifuge, device that humans have been using for decades to make weapons of mass destruction, and that you probably used in a college chemistry class to extract solutions from water.
As early as the mid 2010s, bartenders were experimenting with using centrifuges for making cocktails as a novelty. However in space, these devices are likely to be our only way to mix drinks until we can create artificial gravity.
Wait but how does a centrifuge work?
Oh right…some of you were able to get by on your good looks or sports skills and never had to learn about science. A centrifuge is a device that spins liquid samples at high speeds and thus creates a strong centripetal (fancy word for spinning) force causing the denser materials to travel towards the bottom of the centrifuge tube. In space a centrifuge can be used to recreate the effect of gravity by pushing things against the wall of the centrifuge tube.
One nice thing about centrifuges now is that they have individual compartments (like in the picture here), so you could, in theory have multiple drinks mixing at once.
Cool But What About The Booze?
Let me get there…gawd. So creating the artificial gravity inside the centrifuge is half the battle in that it at least creates the situation where the liquid can be mixed. Our little space cocktail machine would also need an agitator or mixer of some type to ensure the liquid was simultaneously being gravitized (yes I made up that word…if President George W. Bush could, then so can I) and mixed.
If you take away gravity a liquid becomes something different. It’s sticky. Surface tension keeps it clumped together into blobs. If you shatter that blob, dozens of little blobs scatter everywhere. Then it sticks to your clothes, your skin, everywhere. It is hard to clean up. The current space technology solution for managing liquids is simple: keep it in a bag. Squeeze bags are ubiquitous. You use them for camping and travel. They are practical. They are also ugly…which clearly outweighs their utility.
A Kickstarter back in 2015 devised a solution (image above) to this by breaking up the inside of a martini glass with grooves to prevent the liquid from forming into blobs, and instead be guided to your mouth.
Pets…I’m told people like these…and if people like things, then they are going to end up in space. What happens when fluffy, pebbles, or Dorthy end up in space? Lets find out next time. Until then, read more about how NASA is a prude, or where you should keep your blood while in space (hint: inside your skin), or for a change of scenery, take a look at your next vacation home, or how we are going to be getting to space here soon.
If you want to know how something specific is going to work in space, feel free to shoot me a note below and I’ll work it in the rotation.