Back in 2019, Space Cargo Unlimited sent a case of red Bordeaux wine up to the International Space Station—not so the astronauts could tipple (that's generally against regulations), but to figure out: What happens to fermented stuff when it's in micro-gravity for so long?
That includes not just drinking it but figuring out how the booze changed, which the company hopes may offer some lessons for agricultural resilience down here, as climate change slowly terraforms our planet.
Properties in the wines and vines will also be compared against control samples that stayed behind on earth.
'We're going to look at everything that has evolved,' Gaume said.
'We'll do a whole genome sequencing of the plants, to provide a clear view of all the DNA changes that could have happened on the stay on the ISS.'
A chemical analysis of the wines is planned, as well as a private tasting scheduled for early March.
The identity of the Bordeaux red wines has not yet been revealed, but they are from a single producer and one vintage.
Gaume described the absence of gravity, or microgravity, as the 'ultimate stress'. He said researchers involved in the project were interested in learning more about how the vine canes may have adapted or evolved in a relatively short time to be resilient to the stressful conditions.
This, he said, could have implications for understanding how vineyards – and agriculture in general – might adapt to stress factors related to climate change.
Woody plants such as vines are crucial to feeding the human population, say researchers, but they have never been studied in space."This could be a game-changer in unlocking the agriculture of tomorrow," said Michael Lebert, SCU's chief scientific officer.
(CC-2.0-licensed photo of rando Bordeaux wine courtesy the Flickr stream of filtran)