An 11-year-old boy is set to become the first person to brew beer in space – even though he's far too young to drink.
Michal Bodzianowski, from Colorado, won a national competition which called for proposals on experiments which could be conducted in space. But rather than examining the effect of zero-gravity on gerbils or making ice lollies using the freezing vacuum of space, he decided that astronauts might like to get a bit tipsy as they circled the Earth.
His proposal claims that the experiment is a trial for a "future civilization, as an emergency backup hydration and medical source". The spaced-out brewer also suggested that beer was important for "both medical and survival reasons", although we suspect neither of these capture the real reason astronauts might want to make a homebrew.
"He came up with this idea all on his own," said Sharon Combs, teacher at STEM School and Academy in Colorado which specialises in science teaching. "He got a book for Christmas that was about weird facts and explains how in the Middle Ages they used to drink beer because it was purer than water."
The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education sponsored the competition, which is part of a scheme called the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. Another 744 proposals were drafted up by 3,900 students aged 10 to 17.
"I never expected it to be one of my sixth-graders," Combs added. "But Michal's got the natural curiosity of people who go after science. He's very talented."
Now Bodzianowski will prepare a small experiment on the ground which will be put onto a rocket at Cape Canaveral and flown up to the International Space Station.
Once the brewery is up there, an astronaut will make the beer, following the young boy's instructions. Back down on Earth, the baby brewer will also whip up his own batch, to see what differences zero gravity makes to the eventual drink.
His school raised $21,500 to pay for the rocket launch, after securing sponsorship from firms including Subaru, Raytheon, and OtterBox. ®