BORDEAUX, France (AFP) — Twelve bottles of Bordeaux wine and dozens of vine shoots are back at home in southwest France after spending months on the International Space Station (ISS) for an unusual astrochemistry experiment.
The red wine and 320 mature shoots known as canes arrived Monday after their return to Earth via a Dragon capsule operated by SpaceX, the private launching company created by Elon Musk.
They will be analyzed at the Institute of Vine and Wine Science in Bordeaux to see how the stresses produced by zero gravity affect both grape growth and the finished product, which could spur new agricultural research.
"The WISE Mission is the first private applied research program aimed at using spatial conditions to tackle agricultural challenges of tomorrow, on a warmer planet and with less water," said Nicolas Gaume.
Gaume and his partner Emmanuel Etcheparre founded their Space Cargo Unlimited group for carrying out a range of research projects in zero gravity.
The bottles were on the station for 438 days and will be compared with 12 similar Bordeaux bottles stored in similar conditions on Earth, while the vine plants — half Cabernet Sauvignon and half Merlot — were stored 312 days.
A private expert tasting of the wine is planned for later this month.
"The only thing that changes compared with Earth is the near-total absence of gravity, which produces immense stress for life on the ISS," Gaume told AFP.
Plants that can be made resilient to such stress might also be able to better cope with environmental changes produced by climate change.
"The things we learn about wine we also plan to develop for other agricultural uses," he said.
The cost of the project, carried out with the University of Erlangen in Germany and France's CNES space agency, was not disclosed.
It was not the first time wine has been sent into orbit: In 1985, Jean-Michel Caze, owner of the storied Chateau Lynch-Bages, gave French astronaut Patrick Baudry a small bottle of its 1975 vintage for a Space Shuttle launch in Houston.
But no one got to sample the wine in weightlessness — it stills sits unopened on a dining-room shelf in Caze's home.
© Agence France-Presse
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