Coffee has been a staple in an astronaut’s diet since the very beginning. They often start their morning by sipping rehydrated instant coffee crystals from drink pouches. It’s a little tricky to play barista in microgravity, so the pouches come pre-mixed with different combinations of cream and sugar depending on each astronaut’s preference. Ongoing research is improving not only the morning cup of joe in space but also life here on Earth.
On April 20th, SpaceX delivered a new microgravity coffee machine named “ISSpresso” to the space station. Thanks to this collaboration between the Italian Space Agency, Italian engineering firm Argotec, and coffee company Lavazza, authentic Italian espresso is no longer an earthly comfort astronauts have to leave behind.
No one wants to drink Italian espresso from a plastic bag, however. What astronauts need is a “zero-G coffee cup.” Fortunately, six of these wonders have been delivered to the space station as well. Fluid physicist Dr. Mark Weislogel and his colleagues at IRPI LLC learned how to make this oddly shaped coffee cup by conducting ‘capillary flow’ experiments onboard the station. Whether getting the last drop of fuel for a rocket engine or delivering the perfect dose of medication to a patient, there are real Earth benefits behind the research.
No matter how you’re consuming your coffee on National Coffee Day, just be thankful you only have to consume it once. Because 90% of water on the space station is recycled and purified sweat, condensation, and urine, astronauts like to say “Yesterday’s coffee is today’s coffee.”