An 11-year-old schoolboy in the US has won a NASA competition to design an experiment to be conducted in space – on how microgravity affects brewing beer.
Michal Bodzianowski (pictured), a student at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School and Academy in Douglas County, Colorado, came up with the idea when he thought of how future intergalactic colonists might produce drinking water and provide basic antiseptics in the event of an accident which deprived them of these facilities.
Entitled, “What Are the Effects of Creation of Beer in Microgravity and Is It Possible?” Bodzianowski’s project was selected by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and will be on its way into orbit this December.
The competition is part of the Student Space Flight Experiments Programme which was launched in 2010 and has so far seen 17,500 students take part in what is known as “real-life science”.
The competition is designed to inspire an interest in STEM careers.
Bodzianowski told US media he got the idea after reading a history book called “Gruesome Facts”, which explained the importance of beer in the Middle Ages.
“It was a punishment for crimes, that you couldn’t drink beer,” he said, “and most people didn’t survive (that) because the water was contaminated.”
He reasoned therefore that beer is, “an important factor in future civilization as an emergency backup hydration and medical source.The fermentation process could be used to make beer, which can then be used as a disinfectant and a clean drinking source.”
The International Space Station – the new frontier in craft brewing?
Bodzianowski and fellow sixth and eighth-graders worked on the project while the school raised the US$21,500 needed to cover the costs for NanoRacks, the commercial firm that flies these scientific programmes up to the International Space Station, where it operates two small laboratories.
The experiment consists of a six-inch long silicon test tube filled with hops, malted barley, yeast and water which have been separated with clasps.
In orbit the astronauts will remove the clasps, shake the ingredients together and monitor the test tube for signs of fermentation.
“We’re just trying to get the yeast to react with the ingredients of beer,” explained Bodzianowski. “If it doesn’t react at all, this tells you it won’t work.”
The craft beer programme director for the Brewers Association in Boulder, Julia Herz, expressed an interest in the project, telling the Denver Post: “The history of beer goes back thousands and thousands of years.
“Why not expand beer to another element of our universe — space?”