The Ultimate Quest: Making Booze in Space

Let’s face it. We will not be able to commercialize space until we can drink there. That is the bottom line. And it will be expensive to ship up bottles of pre-made stuff. Imagine, $500 for a glass of pinot grigio?

So how to remedy this?`In fact, the question is under investigation. That shows one that humanity is indeed serious about leaving the planet.

But think it is easy? Consider

“The whole liquor-making process is about reduction in volume,” says Kris Berglund, chemical engineer at Michigan State University who is obsessed with liquor-making, and also owns his own corn farm that he uses to make his own whiskey. “If I wanted to make a gallon of alcohol, it’s going to take me something like 13 pounds of starch. Corn is 60 percent starch, and there’s 56 pounds in a bushel of corn….” Moral of that back of the napkin exercise: Berglund says it would probably take about 1/300th of an acre of corn to make a gallon of whiskey. That’s about the surface area of a mid-sized American car, a big ask aboard a space ship or Martian colony. “Rice might be better, in terms of both the amount of carbohydrates you make per unit of area, and the fact that you can sustain it in an aquaculture rather than trying to maintain soil,” Berglund says. Soju it is. Or maybe the crew has less discerning tastes. In that case, they can make their mash from any starchy, veggie, or fruity food scraps.

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