Monday, April 29, 2013

Lighter Fare - SPACE COFFEE

Probably the best part of waking up no matter where you are is that first cup of java. Just imagine having that cup of coffee staring out a window that looks out on space and the Earth in a distance. Watching all the wonders of the universe and enjoying that first cup. Think again. Apparently one of the biggest complaints starting as far back as the Apollo, is the coffee. If you have a bad cup of coffee you just get in your car, drive down the road and stop in or go to the drive-thru, perhaps get a latte. Not so if you are up at the ISS or elsewhere in space.

There are additional problems in space. The weightlessness has a tremendous effect on both the taste and smell of the coffee. When the aroma of coffee or any other warm food hits the nose, it is due to little molecules that are carried upward by thermally-driven convection. Of course heat only rises in a gravity environment. If you cannot smell the food or coffee, a great deal of the taste is suppressed. This is most unfortunate.

NASA threw down the challenge. A team came up with a newly designed system for the coffee that deals with the complaints that refer not only to the coffee itself, but also the condiments that accompany it. So how exactly does this new system work?

For coffee with sugar, hot water is shot from a gun through a partition into a pouch of coffee and then separately into a sugar pouch enabling it to dissolve fully. Next a roller pushes the sugar/hot water mixture from one packet into the coffee packet adding as much sugar as the individual wants. Similarly the non-dairy creamer is added with water and then to the coffee. A drinking tube is added and voila, the astronaut can now enjoy his coffee.

Maybe this isn’t what you envisioned was of importance, but it didn’t take up the greatest minds that they had to offer, it was handled all by some undergrads at Rice University. Personally I couldn’t deal with my day without coffee and I wouldn’t ask someone who is going up to live in space for six months to give it up. So thank you Rice for giving our guys in space something to start their day the right way while they enjoy that glorious view! After all, remember, it’s the little things that count!

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