Is it possible to brew beer on the moon?

A group of engineering students from the University of California, San Diego wants to find out the feasibility of brewing the world's most widely consumed alcoholic drink on the lunar surface, so the team designed an experiment that would test if yeast can survive to ferment beer on the moon.

Lunar Beer-Brewing Experiment Aims To Hitchhike On TeamIndus Spacecraft

The team is competing with 24 other teams to send an experiment to the moon aboard the spacecraft built by TeamIndus. The startup has signed a launch contract to send a spacecraft to Earth's natural satellite as part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.

The TeamIndus spacecraft is set for launch in December later this year. If the team from UCSD gets selected to get a spot aboard the spacecraft, it will be the first to brew beer in space.

How Brewing Would Work On The Moon

UC San Diego bioengineering student Neeki Ashari and her teammates designed a unique system that veered away from what normally occurs during brewing. Instead of separating the fermentation and carbonation stages, the team wanted to combine the process to eliminate the release of accumulated carbon dioxide that can endanger the spacecraft.

The system already has the necessary prep work done on Earth. Malt and water are mixed together and placed into the experimentation vessel to allow fermentation, wherein yeast would turn sugar into alcohol, and the carbonation process, which involves getting bubbles into the drink, to happen simultaneously.

Special Brewing Process Needed To Prevent Sanitation And Safety Issues

The setup would prevent over-pressurization in case the system fails. It would also prevent the release of excess carbon dioxide that can potentially cause sanitation and safety issues.

Srivaths Kaylan, a UCLA nanoengineering major who is part of the team, said that the canister used for the fermentation has three compartments. The contents of the top compartment, which is filled with unfermented beer, and the second compartment, which contains the yeast, would mix once the rover lands on the lunar surface.

"A valve will open between the two compartments, allowing the two to mix," Kaylan said. "When the yeast has done its job, a second valve opens and the yeast sinks to the bottom [to] separate from the now fermented beer."

Special Strain That Can Produce Good Beer Under Broad Range Of Temperature

Given the stressful environment in space, Omega Yeast Labs owner Lance Shaner said that a specific kind of yeast would be needed for fermenting beer on the moon. Omega Yeast Labs's HotHead strain was recommended for the experiment.

The strain has tolerance for wide temperature range, unknown conditions and fluctuations. Shaner said that the strain can produce tasty beer under a wide range of temperature from 60 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Implications Of Conducting A Beer-Brewing Experiment On The Moon

Knowing how yeast behaves on the moon does not just have implications on brewing beer in space. Yeast has a range of uses, and knowing how it behaves in space could help in the development of medicines and yeast-containing foods such as bread.

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