The International Space Station on Tuesday offered 12 bottles of Bordeaux wine and hundreds of fragments of vines that spent a year orbiting the world in the name of science.
Wine and vines, and thousands of pounds of other gear and research, including mice, will sink aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule Wednesday night in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa.
The French wine bottles (each bottle placed inside a steel cylinder to prevent breakage) were capped in the orbiting laboratory.
None of the bottles will open until the end of February. That’s when Space Cargo Unlimited, the company behind the experiments, will open one or two bottles to taste some of France’s best connoisseurs in Bordeaux. Months of chemical testing will follow. Researchers are eager to see how the space altered sedimentation and bubbles.
Agricultural science was the main goal, said Nicolas Gaume, CEO and co-founder of the company, though he admits it will be fun to taste the wine.
“Our goal is to address the solution of how we will have an organic and healthy agriculture tomorrow capable of feeding humanity, and we believe space is the key,” Gaume said from Bordeaux.
With climate change, Gaume said agricultural products like grapes will have to adapt to harsher conditions. Through a series of space experiments, Space Cargo Unlimited hopes to take the lessons learned from stressing plants into weightlessness and translate them into more robust and resilient plants on Earth.
There is another advantage. Gaume looks forward to future explorers on the Moon and Mars will want to enjoy some of the pleasures of Earth. “Being French, it’s part of life to have good food and good wine,” he told the Associated Press.
Gaume said private investors helped fund the experiments. He refused to provide the cost of the project.
The wine was launched to the space station in November 2019 aboard a Northrop Grumman supply ship. SpaceX launched last March the 320 fragments of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines, called reeds in the vineyard business.