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An out of the world cup of coffee!

If you’re a coffee avid, how long can you go without tasting the smooth, rich taste of a freshly brewed cup, a week?, a day, a few hours? Well, just imagine you were hooked on coffee and then blasted into space in the early days of the space programme and left hanging in orbit for up to a week without a coffee? That’s exactly what happened during the 1960s when NASA and their Soviet counterparts struggled to work out how to feed and water their spacemen. It remained a constant problem for generations of space travellers until relatively recently when engineers finally managed to get an espresso machine onto the International Space Station flying high above us in orbit between 205 and 270 miles above the planet’s surface.

Known as the ISSpresso machine it was appropriately enough an Italian astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti who sampled the first beverage produced by the machine, a true luxury, after all, astronauts are still denied fresh air and long showers during the months they spend at the space station.

So, what exactly does it take to make a coffee, tea, soup, and other hot beverages in space? Room temperature water is heated and pressurized and passed through a machine not dissimilar to one you might find back down on earth. When it comes to drinking the drink, gone are the days of a plastic sachet and a straw, instead now, astronauts are given a ‘zero G coffee cup’, which were designed by Mark Weislogel, a fluids physicist from Portland State University. Weislogel, looked at the problem of zero-G on fluids which usually clump together in a blob due to the effects of surface tension and capillary effect. The Zero G coffee cup, however, solves this problem by using the behaviour of fluids in a microgravity environment. The liquid clumps together at the lip of the cup and flows as you suck it. Only astronauts can experience this unique way to drink beverages as gravity on the surface means the rest of us have to drink drinks conventionally.

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