After One Year at the International Space Station, French Wine Finally Heads Home

One dozen bottles of French Bordeaux wine and hundreds of snippets of grapevines spent a year orbiting the world in the name of science.

After a year-long journey in space, a dozen bottles of French Bordeaux wine and hundreds of grapevine snippets returned to Earth in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, January 12. The wine, grapevines, and thousands of pounds of other gear were sent to space in SpaceX's Dragon Capsule in March 2020. Each bottle was nestled inside a steel cylinder to prevent breakage and remained corked while aboard the orbiting lab. The goal of the mission was for France's top wine connoisseurs and experts to taste the difference between grounded wine and those bottles that were sent to space. However, wine aficionados will have to wait just a little bit longer to learn the results of the experiment—none of the bottles will be opened until the end of February 2021. At that time, a bottle or two will be popped in Bordeaux, France for tasting, followed by months of chemical testing that will analyze sedimentation and bubbles.

red wine being poured into a wine glass
©InterLoire/Tony Perez

"Our goal is to tackle the solution of how we're going to have an agriculture tomorrow that is both organic and healthy and able to feed humanity, and we think space has the key," said Nicolas Gaume, CEO and co-founder of Space Cargo Unlimited, a Luxembourg startup behind the experiments.

Due to climate change, vineyards need to adapt to harsher conditions. By understanding how the grapes did when forced under weightlessness, farmers may be able to cultivate more resilient crops. Gaume hopes that this mission will also teach space explorers how to send wine to the moon or Mars in the future for them to enjoy while at the International Space Station. "Being French, it's part of life to have some good food and good wine," he told the Associated Press.

According to ABC News, SpaceX is the only shipper capable of returning space station experiments and other items intact. Other cargo capsules used in similar experiments returned filled with trash, which was burned once reentering Earth's atmosphere.

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