Not that long ago, a large beer manufacturer rocketed barley seeds to the International Space Station to better understand how the grain germinates in microgravity. Why? Because eventually, they want to brew beer on Mars (duh).
“We are inspired by the collective American Dream to get to Mars,” said their vice president in a press release. “We are excited to begin our research to brew beer for the red planet.”
Since space beer trumps cynicism in even the most bitter of minds, we took a look at what sort of hurdles the beer giant will face when trying to get astronauts drunk. Going by what we found out, they’ll have their work cut out for them.
Mars Is Too Cold
Yeast is the most important ingredient when brewing beer, since it produces both alcohol and carbon dioxide (the latter of which gives beer its fizz). But it can only survive within a narrow range of temperatures, and the average temperature on Mars — minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit — is far, far outside of that range.
Mars Is Too Dark
Mars is much further from the sun than Earth, which means it receives less than half as much sunlight. This presents a teensy problem when growing hops (the ingredient that provides beer with flavor), because they only thrive under intense sunlight. This issue could be addressed with artificial light, but that would require an awful lot of time and money (a single pound of orbital cargo currently costs about $10,000, according to NASA).
Mars Is Too Dry
While more and more frozen water reserves are discovered on Mars with each coming year, the amount of liquid water flowing on the surface isn’t only extremely limited, it’s also rather salty. Even if such scarce reserves were used for brewing beer (unlikely), the salted water would also result in extremely bitter beer, and that won’t do.
Mars Is Too Low-Gravity
The gravity on the surface of Mars is 62 percent lower than it is on Earth, which would have a negative effect on both the fermentation process and the carbonation of the beer. Regarding fermentation, brewers measure this process (and the ABV of their beer) by evaluating the specific gravity (or density) of their beer, which would need to be adjusted according to the gravity on Mars. As for the carbonation, Martian gravity would prevent the foam from peaking into a head at the top of the beer, then settling down (like it does on Earth). Instead, the beer itself would be much frothier. Meh.
While none of this is good news for this massive brewery— or the future of interplanetary booze in general — there is one upside: The Outer Space Treaty has established space as an international commons by describing it as the “province of all mankind,” which means this beer company and others are free to pursue brewing beer on Mars by any means possible, so long as humanity agrees that it’s necessary.
And if anything can bring humankind together, it’s space beer.