Nov 25, 2014 03:01 PM EST
Late Sunday morning, Nov. 23, three new replacements for Expedition 42 boarded the International Space Station, bringing the orbiting space lab's population back to full strength. But, aside from bringing some fresh blood to the research conducted on the orbiting spacecraft, and new perspectives for how life in space should be conducted on the space station, the three new astronauts brought a bit of home back with them. And it's Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti's 44-pound carry-on that has the International Space Station salivating at the taste of Italy she brought aboard.
Now, it's not unheard of for Russian cosmonauts to attempt to take a delicate can of caviar into space, but no other Italian before has ever attempted to bring along the aromatic espresso - that is, until Cristoforetti.
The 44-pound machine, cleverly dubbed the "ISSpresso" machine after its host the International Space Station (ISS), is a creation of century-old Italian coffee firm Lavazza and Turin-based engineering company Argotec who engineers space food for the astronauts. And while doesn't exactly make small cups of dark roast like those Cristoforetti may be accustomed to in Italian piazza's, the ISSpresso machine produces a pouch of espresso the astronauts can drink through a straw with all the original tastes they may crave.
"The concept of this machine was for an experiment" Argotec managing director, David Avino says. "So we started as a technology demonstration experiment, but NASA was very much interested in getting this machine - not only for making a few coffees, but actually for keeping it on the station."
Designed to work just like and Earth-bound espresso machine, the ISSpresso is intended to operate at the same temperature and pressure as a normal machine to ensure the same taste and flavor that the astronauts are accustomed to. In translating the concept into reality, engineers faced several difficulties, and answered these problems by replacing tubing within the machine from plastic to steel and equipping the ISSpresso with buttons and switches much like those already in use on the space station.
"We are very proud, not only as Italians but also as residents of Turin - the first espresso machine was created in Turin in 1884, so about 130 years ago. And today in 2014, another two Turin-based realities developed a machine that will bring espresso - not only across the world, but even in space" spokespersons for Lavazza, Marcello Arcangeli and Alberto Cabilli say. "[We had to figure out] how to make coffee on the station exactly like we make it on Earth. The other difficulty consisted in respecting safety measures in order to qualify the machine as 'On-Board software' on the International Space Station."
And the pouches of espresso are not Cristoforetti's only claim to fame. Aside from being the first coffee connoisseur to bring espresso aboard the International Space Station, she is also the first Italian female in space. And with a unique perspective of ongoing research, we're sure to hear more from her in the months to come, as she conquers more records all while orbiting in space.
And when asked about the accomplishments of the 37-year-old captain in the Italian Air Force, Lavazza and Argotec said, "Cristoforetti will not only be the first female astronaut from Italy to go into space, but also the very first astronaut in the history of the conquest of space to savour an authentic Italian espresso in orbit."
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