On April 28, 2007, a UP Aerospace SL-2 rocket blasted off into space on a routine mission. It carried the ashes of deceased actor James Doohan, who portrayed “Scotty” on Star Trek (I actually met Doohan once in the early 1980s when I worked for a chain of videostores in North Carolina) along with Mercury 7 Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper and 200 other urns. SL-2 is short for UP Aerospace’s SpaceLoft-2 , a rocket suborbital sounding rocket. UP Aerospace sends up four to six such commercial rockets each year.
In addition to the remains sent into space, the payload consists of photographs, seeds, science experiments, soccer jerseys and the secret payload of Microgravity Enterprises, Inc.. According to their website, Microgravity Enterprises goal is to “develop space-based products and make them available to the general public at low affordable prices.” Currently, the make Space2O, bottled water enriched with electrolytes that were flown in space aboard the SL-2, and Antimatter, an energy drink in which many of the ingredients have likewise flown in space.
All that Microgravity Enterprises, which calls itself a space commercialization company, will say about the latest flight is that their payload contained the ingredients with which they’ll make the “first true space beer”. Company spokeswoman Linda Strine “says said ingredients, the amounts and types of which are secret and patented, will be delivered next week to a ‘production facility’ that in the span of a month will generate an otherworldly brew called Comet Tail Ale. “We flew enough ingredients to support almost a year’s worth of production,” says Darryl Hupfer, VP of sales and marketing for Microgravity Enterprises.
They’re spinning it pretty good, but I suspect it was the yeast that they flew into space. And their client, most likely, is nearby Kellys Brewpub, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As reported last year in the New Mexico Business Weekly, Kellys sent some yeast up in one of UP Aerospace’s rockets before but since it failed to reach suborbit (meaning that it didn’t reach the 45 mile-high threshold that defines where “space” begins) they brewed a beer they called “Test Flight Amber Ale.”
I have mixed feelings about this project because it seems so gimmicky and I know that the rocketed ingredients won’t make the beer taste any differently. But I am a former space geek — reinvigorated somewhat by my son Porter’s obsession with all things space-related — so it also seems like a fun idea, too.
So I don’t wish to throw water on the fire or rain or their parade, but it also seems to be that this won’t be the “first true space beer” as the company claims. I’m pretty sure that the Apollo beer that was a contract beer around a decade ago used yeast that had been in space, too. It was in a distinctive blue bottle and they made an ale and a lager which was sold in six-packs. And I know that a German science experiment managed to get some yeast aboard one of the space shuttle flights. I know some of it they then used for research purposes, but I have a hard time believing they didn’t use at least some of it to brew a batch of beer.
Who knows, perhaps Kellys also sent a few hop pellets in the rocket, too. In the end, it may come down simply to how you define a “true space beer.”