Apr 16, 2015 09:07 PM EDT
A resupply mission to the International Space Station is bringing much needed culture to the ISS in the form of a new Espresso machine.
In space, all they have is instant coffee. "For an instant coffee, it's an excellent instant coffee," says Vickie Kloeris, who manages the space station's food supply for NASA. Astronauts are allotted up to three freeze-dried cups (pouches, actually) a day, and Kloeris says it's "extremely popular."
But, she adds, "Can it compete with brewed espresso? No."
That turned out to be a problem, especially for the Italian astronauts that spend time onboard the station. In 2013, Luca Parmitano said that the only food he missed while in space was Espresso coffee.
Luckily, after hearing the plight of the Italian astronauts, Argotec, an Aerospace company based in Torino, Italy, together with the Italian coffee company Lavazza designed a machine that is making its way to the station.
So what did they call this new zero gravity Espresso machine? Why, the ISSpresso, of course. "I-S-S for the International Space Station," says David Avino, Argotec's managing director. "'Presso' like the espresso."
The ISSpresso is a box about the size of a microwave. You insert a pouch of water and add a little capsule of espresso and push the button marked, "brew." The espresso then comes out in another pouch ready to be served to the astronauts.
Currently, nobody is sure exactly how well this new system will work in zero gravity. Because of this, they had to build in extra safety features in the form of steel tubing and extra sensors.
If it does work, the Italian astronauts are sure to be the first served, but it is made for everyone to use while onboard.
"Everybody can join and can also be happy getting an espresso coffee," Avino says. "And this will be also a great occasion, you know, to all meet together and [have] a coffee all together on the station."
It's perfect for the astronauts, but NASA's Vickie Kloeris is anxious. "Each cup has an individual capsule that has to be packaged separately. So there's a lot of trash and a lot of volume involved in it," she says. Getting things in and out of space is expensive, and Kloeris says NASA managers are still trying to figure out how to deal with all those finicky plastic pods.
If it does work, astronauts will soon be needing much more as the machine only comes with 20-30 coffee capsules.
"We'll see how it goes," she says. "If it's successful, then we'll have to figure out how we're going to resupply it."
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