Posted: Jan 02, 2020
While many of us might enjoy a bottle of Bordeaux during this festive season, a case of the wine is also sitting in space - strictly off limits to the astronauts.
A dozen bottles have been sent to the International Space Station as part of research which could lead to new insights for the food and drinks industry and help breed hardier plants that adapt to climate change.
"In the beginning we were not thinking this project was serious," said Professor Philippe Darriet from the Bordeaux Scientific Institute of Vine and Wine, where the cargo was packed in special metal containers for the rocket journey.
"But we took this opportunity to consider the stay of the wine on the ISS. It gives us the possibility of studying the effect of microgravity, of the solar radiation, on the evolution of the wine component. And our speciality in this institution is to study the wine component-taste and flavour and so on."
Twelve bottles of Bordeaux made their way to the ISS aboard a capsule where they will be left to age for a year. The space wine will then be compared to 12 bottles of the same wine left to age on Earth.
The project is the first of six missions which will be carried out by the start-up "Space Cargo Unlimited" including sending vines into space. But the aim is get insights which stretch way beyond improving wine.
The company's chief executive and co-founder Nicolas Gaume says wine-making is a complex process involving yeast, bacteria and chemical processes which makes it good for space study.
He told Sky News: "Wine is actually a very interesting liquid to study from a biological standpoint. It has all the key ingredients of what we are interested in studying which is the future of agriculture and food on Earth."
Space and what happens there can give scientists important information which could help plants fight disease and thrive in a changing climate.
"What we really want is to expose a number of living organisms to the specific conditions of space… and then possibly bringing back interesting new evolutions of life in space that could allow us to get more resilient plants to respond to a specific parasite, plants that are going to grow to a different environment with climate change," he added.
The project has been years in the making and the first results will be back in the coming months when the space wine will be tasted and analysed.
The big challenge for now could be keeping the astronauts' hands off the cargo over the festive period.
By Michelle Clifford
January 1, 2020
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