Drinking beer shouldn’t be a complicated process: Pour some suds into a glass and throw back your cold one with ease. But unfortunately, this typically low-maintenance beverage isn’t quite so easy in zero gravity.
For one, any liquid behaves bizarrely without gravity there to keep it in check. And there have been debates for decades over whether or not astronauts should be able to drink in space to begin with, as detailed in this article from VinePair.
But even if NASA and the American taxpayers decide they’re cool with space explorers downing the occasional boozy pick-me-up, beer and other bubbly offerings like Champagne likely won’t be on the menu for two big reasons—the first of which is the carbonation.
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of sipping on a glass of flat Budweiser, you know how important that fizz is to the overall experience. And, conversely, if you’ve ever had a badly poured pint, you know how unsatisfying a mug of pure foam can be. Once a brew—or soda for that matter—enters space, that all-important carbonation doesn’t dissipate like it does here on Earth. “In a weightless environment, bubbles of carbon dioxide (‘carbonation’) aren't buoyant, so they remain randomly distributed in the fluid,” one article on the NASA website says. “The result can be a foamy mess.”
As of yet, there’s no evidence to suggest that NASA has successfully created a microgravity dispenser that could properly capture carbonation or provide astronauts with a way to sip a brewski more than 200 miles outside the atmosphere. (We reached out to NASA’s Johnson Space Center for a comment on the potential of perfecting carbonation in space, but received no response, leading us to believe there are top-secret plans in the works to open a beer garden in the International Space Station. We can dream, right?)
Another article on the NASA website is even less hopeful: “Even if a microgravity dispenser is perfected, there is no guarantee that carbonated beverages will be used in space.”
Why? Well, the most troublesome part of drinking suds in space isn’t mastering carbonation—it’s what that carbonation could do in a person’s body: “In space, with the absence of gravity, the carbon dioxide bubbles in carbonated beverages go through an astronaut's digestive system, rather than being belched out as on Earth, and may cause adverse side effects,” the article explains.
Exactly what those adverse side effects are is unclear. While it could just be a brutal stomach ache or burp like no one’s ever experienced on Earth, one Quora user theorizes that something even more repulsive could happen: “You essentially end up vomiting every time you belch.”
Thanks, but no thanks.
For now, we’ll have to put the dream of drinking a beer blob with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on the ISS to rest. Instead, we’ll focus our starry dreams on liquor that’s been to space and back and brewing advancements made thanks to new technology developed for a mission to Mars. Happy drinking on this side of the atmosphere.