The team designed a unique system to carry out this experiment. First, the “wort” – malt and water mixed together – will be mixed on Earth and placed in a special fermentation vessel. Then, the vessel will combine the fermentation (turning the sugar to alcohol) and carbonation (adding the bubbles to beer) stages, which are usually done separately, to avoid releasing any carbon dioxide on the spacecraft.
The vessel, amazingly, is only the size of a soda can. "Our canister is designed based on actual fermenters," explained Srivaths Kaylan, the team’s mechanical lead. "It contains three compartments – the top will be filled with the unfermented beer, and the second will contain the yeast. When the rover lands on the moon with our experiment, a valve will open between the two compartments, allowing the two to mix. When the yeast has done its job, a second valve opens and the yeast will sink to the bottom and separate from the now fermented beer."
The team are one of 25 teams selected from over 3,000 by TeamIndus to compete for the chance to send their experiment aboard its spacecraft, which is due for launch in December. If they are chosen, they will be the first people to brew beer in space.
It won’t be the first time alcohol has been present on the Moon, however. Buzz Aldrin has that accolade after he snuck communion wine and bread onto Apollo 11 back in 1969, a fact he only revealed months later, once he was safely back on Earth.
At just the size of a soda can, this gives new meaning to the term microbrewery. Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications