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Sending red wine into space could help food sustainability

Behind the red wine project is a startup company called Space Cargo Unlimited. The unusual mission, where Space Cargo Unlimited are working alongside other startups – Thales Alenia Space and Nanoracks, will age the red wine within a micro-gravity environment for a period of one year. After which time the wine will be sent back to Earth, for further analysis.

Wine making involves the incorporation of many elements including yeast, bacteria, crystals, colloids, and polyphenols, throughout the maturation process. Space Cargo Unlimited’s project will examine the effects of space radiation and microgravity upon the wine’s components, throughout the 12-month aging process. The process involves storing samples of wine, a chemically complex liquid, onboard the space station, undertaking biochemical testing, and comparing different samples with those stored in an aging facility on the ground. These are referred to as Complex Micro(μ)-Biological System (CommuBioS) studies.

Food scientists hope the study will provide data that could assist with understanding taste enhancement and food conservation. This study forms part of a bigger project called Mission WISE (Vitis Vinum in Spatium Experimentia), which is designed to run for 26 months.

Wine drinkers swirl wine in the glass to release its fragrance  called the  bouquet.

Wine drinkers swirl wine in the glass to release its fragrance, called the “bouquet.”
Will Keightley (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The factors of micro-gravity and radiation, that could alter the way wine ages are also of significance to other parts of the Mission WISE consortium. This includes looking into how plants adapt to space conditions, in relation to variations of temperature, salt, and bacteria. These combined effects may trigger plants to develop beyond their initial innate capacities.

This process could help to develop plants that evolve to have stronger defences. If these plants are cultivated back on Earth they may prove to be more robust against climate change. With the wine element there is also the added bonus that this could help winemakers to develop new flavors, nutritional, and digestive properties for the food industry.

According to Nicolas Gaume, who is the CEO of Space Cargo Unlimited: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. It is our shared conviction that there is no Planet B. We intend to pave the way to our future by helping to invent the agriculture and food we need for tomorrow.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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