Moon beer – an out of this world experiment?
Scientists experimenting to see if beer can be brewed on the moon.
Google Lunar XPRIZE
moon beer experiment
UC San Diego Publications
University of California San Diego
It’s true. There is no beer on the Moon, leading some pundits to wonder if that is the real reason manned flights to the lunar surface stopped 44+ years ago.
In an effort to help thirsty travelers, a group of engineering students from the University of California San Diego are creating an experiment to create beer on the moon, hopefully by the end of 2017.
But, it’s not just about creating tipsy astronauts, rather the ramifications of working with yeast fermentation of beer will also lead to such things as baking bread and even creating more complex pharmaceuticals.
Known as “Team Original Gravity”, the scientists are finalists in a competition held by India’s TeamIndus who are sending a lander to the Moon on December 28, 2017 as part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge.
Unlike a typical sprawling Earth-bound brewery with vats and pipes everywhere, the Team Original Gravity are creating their brewery with a floorplan the size of a beer can—and not even a tall boy.
Continuing the trend of not sending people to the Moon since Apollo 17 landed back in December 19, 1972, the unmanned probe has to follow ‘space laws’, meaning they are not allowed to have any sort of biological contamination in and around the landing area.
To avoid that happening, the lunar beer kit will be akin to a home beer kit, where the kit’s contents limit the brewing skills required, with the wort (unfermented beer) is pre-processed on Earth.
The space fermenter is designed with three separate compartments:
- the top is filled with wort. Wort is the liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing of beer or whisky. Wort contains the sugars that will be fermented by the brewing yeast to produce alcohol. A valve will open to release the wort into the middle compartment;
- the middle holds the yeast. The beer yeast is what turns the wort into beer. A second valve will open and allow the active yeast to sink to the third and lowest compartment;
- The middle compartment now holds the finished ‘beer’.
To measure fizz of yeast fermentation, density is usually measured. However, given that the gravity on the Moon is one-sixth of the gravity on Earth, the scientists are using pressure to achieve an accurate measurement.
While the experiment is still awaiting selection by the committee, the experiment will be evaluated by an international jury in March of 2017.
Photo above shows the fermentation canister’s three compartments. Photo: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications)