October 8, 2013
Sixth Grader’s Beer Experiment To Launch Into Space
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The American craft beer industry is booming with more than 2,500 breweries currently operating in the US and another 1,605 in planning stages, a number which is growing every day. This new trend has pushed beyond American shores as brewers in China and the UK have begun to venture out and try their hand at brewing craft beer on their own. Amid this prodigious expansion of craft beer, one 11 year-old has decided he wants to take the ancient art of brewing to space.
As a part of an experiment to understand if yeast can ferment in space and thereby produce healing alcohol, Michal Bodzianowski has created an experiment which will essentially have astronauts on the space station operating the most micro of micro breweries. Bodzianowski suggested this experiment when he entered a contest sponsored by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. His was one of eleven experiments chosen to be conducted in space as a part of this competition. Now Michal says he hopes to travel to Cape Canaveral, Florida in December to see his experiment launch into space.
“I really didn’t expect this from the start, I just designed this experiment to get a good grade in my class,” said Bodzianowski, a sixth-grade student at the STEM academy in Douglas County.
His experiment — titled “What Are the Effects of Creation of Beer in Microgravity and Is It Possible?” — was one of many submitted by students across America. The contest is a part of a larger program called the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), launched in 2010.
While the thought of a sixth-grader brewing beer is capturing headlines, Bodzianowski says he’s more interested in seeing if alcohol can be produced in space as a life-saving measure. Inspired by a book called “Gruesome Facts,” Michal said he learned how and why beer had been brewed throughout history.
"It was a punishment for crimes, that you couldn't drink beer," he said, speaking of the Middle Ages. "Most people didn't survive (that) because the water was contaminated."
Beer could be used in a similar way in space, suggests the sixth-grader. If a water source becomes contaminated and clean water is millions of miles away, astronauts could drink beer as a way to take in clean, healthy water. This beer, assumedly, would resemble the low-alcohol brews of the Middle Ages as well. Furthermore Bodzianowski says the fermented beer could act as a disinfectant should an experiment explode and harm one of the astronauts.
Though he submitted the experiment, Bodzianowski won’t actually be fermenting the beer himself. His experiment will be enclosed in six-inch long tubes with clasps to separate all the ingredients of beer. When the experiment arrives in space, the astronauts will remove the clasps and start the fermentation process.
"We're just trying to get the yeast to react with the ingredients of beer," the young scientist told a local Fox News affiliate. "If it doesn't react at all, this tells you it won't work."