Colonizing distant planets just became a little bit more realistic, now that we can have a proper cup of coffee en route. Lavazza, in partnership with EU space food provider Argotec, is sending the first espresso machine to space along with the Italian Space Agency’s Futura Mission Crew.
“In the Futura Mission … another Italian astronaut of the European Space Agency, Air Force Captain Samantha Cristoforetti, could not only be the first Italian woman to go into space, but also the first astronaut in history to drink an authentic Italian espresso in orbit,” the companies wrote in a joint statement.
ISSpresso replaces instant coffee aboard the ISS
Astronauts haven’t actually had to swear off caffeine up to now, but they’ve had to settle for instant coffee instead of actual brewed coffee. Espresso machines build up pressure to push water through the coffee grinds, so low or zero gravity isn’t a deal breaker (don’t hold your breath on an ISS drip brew), but you still can’t have loose grounds floating around, so Lavazza adapted the single-brew capsule systems that have become popular in recent years. The plastic tubes are replaced with steel, and apparently every part of the machine has a backup so the whole thing weighs 20 kilograms.
The ISSpresso will then fill a small pouch with a straw for the astronauts to drink out of, which sounds like a good way to burn your tongue, a small price to pay for decent coffee.
Espresso machine: Getting rid of the grinds
Get ready for a fresh round of Bear Grylls jokes since the International Space Station recycles astronauts’ urine to replenish its water supply, which will now be turned back into Lavazza brand espresso. But this made me wonder what happens to the other kind of waste, since the ISSpresso will leave capsules behind that instant coffee presumably didn’t. It turns out that the extra waste isn’t much of a problem, and the reason why is kind of awesome.
Since it’s incredibly expensive to send up new supplies, the ISS crew puts a lot of effort into recycling whatever it can. But anything that can’t be recycled gets piled into an ATV until it’s completely full and then launched into the atmosphere where it disintegrates into practically nothing. So the next time you think you see a falling star, it might just be the remnants of the space station’s new espresso machine.