A new espresso maker and unique zero-gravity cups are bringing new luxury to the International Space Station. Today at 12:44 GMT, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti enjoyed the first space-brewed espresso, and she had an awe-inspiring view while doing it.
European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti takes in the view while sipping espresso from a zero-gravity glass. Image credit: NASA
We’ve been anticipating this for months. Lavazza custom-designed an espresso machine to work in the harsh, no-tolerance-for-errors environment of the International Space Station, and it accompanied Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti into orbit in November. But it’s taken awhile to set up the new coffee maker, especially around all the science and housekeeping chores on the station.
Zero-gravity coffee cups arrived at the station in April. Image credit: Andrew Wollman
To make things even classier, custom zero-gravity cups arrived in the cargo run by the SpaceX Dragon on April 14th, allowing astronauts to sip from an odd-looking mug instead of slurping coffee through a straw. The cup’s unusual topography harnesses fluid dynamics to allow astronauts to tilt and pour liquid despite the lack of gravity. That means along with adding another comfort-of-home, every glass enjoyed is part of a fluid dynamics experiment on capillary action, ensuring that theory and observation line up. The results of this research have more pragmatic applications: it could improve our capacity to slurp every last drop of fuel out of spacecraft, or not waste medicine stuck at the bottom of an inappropriately-shaped container.
After a quick taste-test near the machine, Cristoforetti quickly moved on to making us all jealous by demonstrating that the cupola of the International Space Station is the best place ever to enjoy a freshly-brewed espresso. No word on if her choice in uniform was a tribute to Star Trek’s excellent drink menus, or a rather geeky consequence of the lost Progress cargo run depriving astronauts of an expected influx of clean clothes.
Stillframe of Scott Kelly sampling his first space-brewed espresso. Image credit: NASA
The rest of the astronauts soon followed with their own taste-testing, although NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s perplexed expression leaves room for doubt about the quality of his espresso.