SpaceX's upgraded Dragon resupply spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Tuesday with a lot of precious cargo on board. When it splashes back down to Earth on Wednesday, it will return 12 bottles of wine and 320 grape plants to their home planet.
The red wine and vine canes are part of Mission WISE (Vitis Vinum in Spatium Experimentia), an agricultural research program run by private European company Space Cargo Unlimited (SCU). SCU sent a dozen bottles of Bordeaux to the station in November 2019 and 320 vine plants followed in March 2020.
The wine spent a year aging in space. "Space Cargo Unlimited will investigate how space radiation and microgravity affect wine components during the aging process," the company said in a statement following the launch.
SCU and its partners will investigate how the canes -- which are from merlot and cabernet sauvignon vines -- reacted to their space environment and compare the orbital specimens with similar plants kept on Earth.
SCU said it intends to hold a private wine tasting sometime in January and reveal the wine's name at that time as well.
The wine bottles and canes are just the beginning for Mission WISE. Next up are experiments involving bacteria, yeasts and fermentation.
SpaceX had plenty of room to bring the samples back on its revamped Dragon. "The upgraded cargo Dragon capsule used for this mission contains double the powered locker availability of previous capsules, allowing for a significant increase in the research that can be carried back to Earth," NASA said in a statement on Tuesday.
The ISS has embraced commercial experiments that seek to take advantage of the station's unique environment. Vials ofback in 2011. Now it's wine's time to shine.
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