There's a lot of research happening on the International Space Station that can help us make advancements in science, technology and what we know about our universe. However, they usually don't seem as fun as this recent research program about to make its way back to Earth.
A Scottish whiskey distillery set up an experiment several years ago to have astronauts develop whiskey particles in space. Now, the whiskey is making its way back home.
Ardbeg, a Scotch whisky distillery in Islay, Scotland, partnered with the Texas-based space research company NanoRacks to get the experiment off the ground. They sent 20 vials of whiskey particles, along with pieces of charred oak that they were treated with, into space in 2011. The vials didn't contain actual whiskey liquor but microbes that could be later used to brew whiskey.
The particles landed at the International Space Station where they have been orbiting the planet 15 times a day at 17,227 miles per hour. The point of the experiment is to see how the compounds in the vials, technically known as "terpenes," interact with the charred oak in Earth's gravity and then in micro-gravity in space. Terpenes can be found in flavorings and paints, in addition to whiskey.
"NASA approved the project since terpenes have never been grown in zero-gravity conditions," NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber told ABC News.
Manber also told ABC News that the findings of the research won't just impact future production of alcoholic beverages. The results of the experiment can also impact consumer products in general and help us better understand materials and biologicals.
The vials will be back on Earth on Sept. 12 where they will land in Kazakhstan. There's a nifty countdown clock featuring a bottle of Ardbeg whiskey soaring through space in case you need to quell your anticipation. Once the specimens are back on Earth, they will be shipped to NanoRack in Texas where the results of the maturation process will be examined. The findings will be revealed in a paper at a later date.
Whiskey particles aren't even the weirdest objects to have been sent into space. LEGO figurines were launched into space as part of a partnership between NASA and the LEGO Group to encourage children to study science and technology. The original lightsaber Luke Skywalker used in "Star Wars Episode IV: Return of the Jedi" went out of this world with the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2007. There's even a company devoted to launching people's cremated remains into space called Celestis. One of its most famous participants is Gene Roddenberry, the creator of "Star Trek," whose remains are expected to be launched into space, along with his wife Majel, in 2016.
Sending normal, everyday objects into space will never stop fascinating us, will it?