While the curiosity see no boundaries, proving onto the same a team of UC San Diego engineering students is hoping to find out if beer can be brewed on the moon! One of the four finalists at the Lab2Moon competition being held by TeamIndus, they stand a chance to send a spacecraft to the moon as part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge. They are one of the four teams with a signed launch contract.
This experiment is aimed at testing the viability of yeast on the moon, which if turns positive could pave a green signal for a freshly brewed batch of beer in the moon. They would not only be the first to brew beer on the moon, but the first to brew beer in a fermentation vessel the size of a soda can.
The results of how yeast behave on the moon would not only be important for brewing beer in space but for developing pharmaceuticals and yeast-containing foods, like bread.
One of the just 25 teams to have made it amongst the 3,000 competing for a spot aboard TeamIndus spacecraft, this Jacobs School of Engineering undergraduates call themselves “Team Original Gravity.” The spacecraft is scheduled to be launched on Dec. 28, 2017. The spacecraft is owned by the Indian startup TeamIndus, that won a $1 million Milestone Prize for successfully simulating the landing technology concept of its spacecraft.
“The idea started out with a few laughs amongst a group of friends,” said Neeki Ashari, a fifth year bioengineering student at UC San Diego and the team’s PR & Operations Lead. “We all appreciate the craft of beer, and some of us own our own home-brewing kits. When we heard that there was an opportunity to design an experiment that would go up on India’s moonlander, we thought we could combine our hobby with the competition by focusing on the viability of yeast in outer space.”
The unique strategy behind the experiment:
First step involves all the prep work before yeast is added to be done on Earth, rather than in the experimentation vessel. The experiment does not brew the “wort,” or unfermented beer.
Secondly, rather than separating the “fermentation” and “carbonation” phases as would normally occur during the process of making beer, the team plans to combine them. This eliminates the need for releasing accumulated CO2, which can result in sanitation and safety issues. It also prevents the possibility of over-pressurization if anything in the system fails and makes the system easier to design.
Lastly, the testing of fermentation and yeast viability will be done via pressure, rather than using density measurements as done on Earth. This is because density measurements use gravity.
“Converting the pressure build up to fermentation progress is straightforward, as long as volume and original gravity—specific gravity before fermentation, hence our name—are known prior to the experiment,” said Han Ling, a fifth year bioengineering undergraduate and the team’s brewing lead.
With a range of experiments from photosynthesis to electricity, the experiments would be evaluated by an international jury in March when teams fly to Bangalore, India, to showcase their final prototype.
Siddhesh Naik, TeamIndus Ninja and mentor to Original Gravity concludes, “The yeast study is among the coolest experiments to be performed on the lunar surface, and I am sure they are one of the top contenders to win the Lab2Moon competition. Original Gravity is one of the most hardworking teams and very dedicated to their project.”