Italian ISS trekkie sips first zero-G cup of espresso in SPAAAACE

Lavazza's latest brew, with a slight psychological hint of urine

The ISS now has a functioning espresso machine and it was Italy's first woman in space, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who got the first shot – although not before donning a Star Trek uniform for the occasion.

Cristoforetti is a sufficiently ardent Trekkie to use a large chunk of her boarding allowance on a uniform from the Star Trek: Voyager series, and has worn it onboard the space station. She also has something in common with Voyager's Captain Janeway, as Cristoforetti is herself a captain in the Italian Air Force.

The ISSpresso machine was the brainchild of former ISS visitors Paolo Nespoli and Luca Parmitano, who noted that the only coffee on board was somewhat bland to the Italian palate. Italian space engineering firm Argotec designed and built the system with local coffee giant Lavazza as a partner.

Water is inserted into the ISSpresso, heated, then pressurized to 400 bar in steel pipes that force the liquid through the espresso capsule and into a drinking pouch. A low-pressure suction system draws out the last of the coffee – and the aroma – and then seals the pouch.

There's quite a payload attached to this. To get almost any machinery onboard the ISS it's got to have backups for every critical function, and so the espresso maker comes in at a weighty 20 kilograms. After a weather-delayed launch, SpaceX delivered the load and Cristoforetti was there to catch it with the station's robot arm.

Lavazza is providing a supply of coffee capsules and the water is provided by the astronauts themselves. Most of the ISS's water supply is recycled – as is much drinking water here on Earth – and astronauts often refer their water supply as "yesterday's coffee."

While most fluids are drunk from pouches onboard the ISS Cristoforetti chose to use NASA's zero-G cup, which uses capillary action to push liquids into an astronaut's mouth. You can't pour in microgravity, so the cup has a squeezable side panel that liquid naturally flows into.

Youtube Video

It might sound like a daft thing to spend research money on, but the discovery has led to the redesign of fuel pipes, coolant systems, and environmental controls to cope with the peculiar ways fluids act when in low-gravity situations.

As for the zero-G cup, there's also a psychological benefit. NASA finds that astronauts just feel more human if they can drink out of an open container occasionally. Cristoforetti chose one for her caffeinated toast to the stars and the cups are a popular item onboard the ISS.

That said, Cristoforetti won't have long to sample the delights of space espresso, since she's not got long left in orbit. She, along with US astronaut Terry Virts and the Russian commander Anton Shkaplerov, will be leaving the station on May 11 and landing in Kazakhstan after a five-month mission. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022