Much like the moon more than a half a century ago, humans have become obsessed with Mars.
Colonizing the fourth planet from the sun is often depicted in films but its inhabitants are almost never drinking beer on Mars. Well, don’t worry because the folks at Budweiser are on it. Earlier this week, the St. Louis based beer manufacturer announced it would be sending 20 barley seeds into space on Dec. 4, aboard a SpaceX Rocket making a cargo run to the International Space Station. The company hopes that how the barely germinates in microgravity teaches about the change for brewing extraterrestrial suds.
It takes about two years to get to the planet, which is roughly 100 million miles from St. Louis, so keeping an eye on the experiment and attempting to make the beer could really prove difficult. It’s a concept that Budweiser is pursuing with a great deal of seriousness, since it could just be the future.
But much more than just watching the 20 barley seeds, Budweiser wants to think in terms of practicality and what it’ll take to mass-produce a beer for Mark Watney and the rest of Mars’ inhabitants. In the United States, about 2.5 million acres of barley is harvested each year and while much of it goes to feeding livestock, a little less than half of the barley is converted into malt for beer. According to NASA, it costs about $10,000 to ship each pound of cargo to the space station, so if this is something Budweiser can pull off, it’s certainly not going to be cheap. Forget about whether Mars’ conditions would allow for local ingredient growth and just think about the cost of potentially shipping the necessary supplies.
But that might not even be the biggest problem.
Gravity plays a significant role in the brewing process, as the fermentation progress is measured by assessing the density, or gravity, of the beer – and to measure it in space would be problematic. Not to mention the carbonation would be all wonky, since the bubbles wouldn’t rise in zero-gravity. Due to these problems, it’s most likely the only beer that could be brewed on Mars would be a lager or some sort of cold-fermented beer – neither of which would resemble what we get at the ballpark.
It’s a fascinating concept, one that we won’t know more about for quite some time, but it’s nice to know that if we do some day make the trip to the red planet, our favorite vice might just be coming with us.