Is This the World's First Space Beer? No.
Has a brewing company finally managed to launch their beverage into space? Will astronauts finally be able to swig a brewski in low-Earth orbit? Have scientists finally found a solution to the anti-social "wet burp" phenomenon?
Well, according to the brewers of Natural Light — the fifth largest-selling beer in the U.S. — a couple of Facebook fans have done just that: They've successfully launched a can of "Natty Light" into space! But to call a beer "space beer," it actually has to go into space — something this can hasn't done.
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Friends Danny B. and Rich T. approached the company with the idea to send the beer into space, and the reaction unsurprisingly was "Go for it!," according to the Natural Light Facebook page.
After constructing a "spacecraft" out of a Styrofoam cooler, packing it with thermal gloves and placing a camcorder plus GPS tracker inside, all the two men needed was a vacuum-packed full can of Natty Light plus an empty stand-in. Oh yes, and a weather balloon to attach the whole kit to.
What was the craft called? "The Aluminum Fullcan." Where was it going? "The Nattmosphere." Genius.
The launch was a success (see video below), with the Natty Light Facebook fanpage (which generated the space beer buzz in the first place) reporting that the Aluminum Fullcan ascended to more than 90,000 feet before the balloon popped. The Aluminum Fullcan then dropped to Earth via parachute, and Danny and Rich picked it up two hours later, floating in a river (or lake?) 60 miles from the launch site.
Mission success? Yes and no.
Yes? The stunt generated a buzz, culminating in overly excited articles in the international tabloid press. It was a viral campaign that obviously worked.
No? THE BEER NEVER WENT INTO SPACE.
I know this will probably seem like a technicality to Danny, Rich and the brewing company, but 17 miles is nowhere near "space." The internationally recognized boundary where the Earth's atmosphere ends and space begins is around 62 miles in altitude — a boundary known as the Kármán line. Sadly, weather balloons don't go that high. If they did, NASA would use really big balloons to carry astronauts to the space station.
Space beer has become something of a fascination for me (particularly its implications for human space settlement), and I'm glad to report that the "first" space beer isn't going to be a light beer! The first bona fide space beer — as in, a beer that is brewed for the purpose of being enjoyed in space — will most likely be a strong, reduced-carbon dioxide stout. Nice!
Earlier this year, the Australian 4 Pines Brewing Company, working with Astronauts4Hire, actually put some research into the space beer conundrum and, after a series of zero-G flights, developed "Vostok."
Vostok is a full-flavored, low-carbon dioxide beer that not only addresses the loss of taste during long-duration spaceflight, it also reduces the risk of the "wet burp."
"(In space) there's little gravity to keep the fluid in your stomach, but you still need to vent that carbon dioxide that is expanding inside your belly. You try to burp … but you end up venting the carbon dioxide, beer, and whatever else was inside your stomach through your mouth and nose. This, my friends, is called a "wet burp"; an explosive near-vomit experience guaranteed to gross out anyone who has the misfortune to be floating around with you."
Sorry, Danny and Rich — nice try (and I am impressed by the effort), but your can of beer that went into the "Nattmosphere" barely pushed into the stratosphere, so it's not space beer. It's just "beer that floated really high."
But one thing I've learned when consuming alcoholic beverages, things always seem a little exaggerated. So, after finishing your sixth can of Natty Light, feel free to impress your friends by saying it's the world's first space beer (just hope they don't read Discovery News).
Image: Not the beer you think it is (YouTube/Natural Light)