The International Space Station on Tuesday bid adieu to 12 bottles of French Bordeaux wine and hundreds of snippets of grapevines that spent a year orbiting the world in the name of science.
SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule undocked with the wine and vines — and thousands of kilograms of other gear and research, including mice — and aimed for a splashdown last night in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa, Florida.
The Atlantic Ocean had been targeted, but poor weather shifted the arrival to Florida’s other side. SpaceX’s supply ships previously parachuted into the Pacific Ocean.
The carefully packed wine — each bottle nestled inside a steel cylinder to prevent breakage — remained corked aboard the orbiting lab.
Space Cargo Unlimited, a Luxembourg start-up behind the experiments, wanted the wine to age for an entire year up there.
None of the bottles are to be opened until the end of next month. That is when the company is to pop open a bottle or two. Months of chemical testing is to follow. Researchers are eager to see how space altered the sedimentation and bubbles.
Agricultural science is the primary objective, said company cofounder and chief executive Nicolas Gaume, although he admits it is going to be fun to sample the wine.
“Our goal is to tackle the solution of how we’re going to have an agriculture tomorrow that is both organic and healthy and able to feed humanity, and we think space has the key,” Gaume said from Bordeaux, France.
With climate change, Gaume said agricultural products like grapes would need to adapt to harsher conditions.
Space Cargo hopes to take what is learned by stressing the plants in weightlessness, and turn that into more robust and resilient plants on Earth.
Gaume expects future explorers to the moon and Mars are going to want to enjoy some of Earth’s pleasures.
“Being French, it’s part of life to have some good food and good wine,” he said.
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