The Accursed Sovereign

Data Entry: The Rise of the Space Alcohol Industry

The majority of alcohol production moved off Earth by 2150.

The Russians were the first to experiment with alcohol production off-planet, crafting make-shift stills out of scrap satellites and repair parts.  Though resources were limited, necessity bore infantile invention into the cold new world of space.  Using closed-loop heating coils, cosmonauts would heat up soupy mixtures of mashed potato rations and vitamin supplements to make a crude mash.  In anticipation of their activities, these pioneering cosmonauts would smuggle yeast aboard their spacecraft.  Finally, the innovative spacers would use the aformentioned heating coils to distill the mash into a barely-palatable form of liquor.  The Russians soon called it ‘moonshine’ after the American folk liquor typically made from corn mash.  The appropriateness of the name was not lost on them.

One thing that quickly became apparent was the effects of a zero-gravity system on yeast metabolism.  Unfettered from the Earth’s gravity, yeast strains evolved which were significantly more efficient at processing mash sugars into alcohol.  What would have once taken a week to ferment on Earth now only required 36 hours before distillation.  But where cosmonauts found a quick drink, business ventures looked for a quick ruble.  Companies would be disappointed to discover that these new strains of yeast could not hold up under the force of Earth’s gravity.

Distilling in space was significantly more dangerous than on Earth.  Many cosmonauts found early ends in the pursuit of spirits.  Materials floating about in zero-gravity would come into contact with heating elements, providing the necessary spark to ignite the fumes produced by the still.  In mere moments a Russian cosmonaut became a char-broiled corpse.  American authorities attempted to crack down on space distilling in their own programs, worried that poor production practices would result in unnecessary damage to equipment and loss of life.  However, the attempt to restrict space distillation in American programs coincided with a rise in the number of American-run space distilleries.  Russian authorities did not attempt to ban space distilling.

Authorities also expressed concerns when it was discovered that roughly one-third of a ships food stuffs would be converted to alcohol, and in some cases as much as 50%.  The concern was double.  First, this use of rations resulted in egregious health problems such as dangerously low caloric deficits and malnutrition-related illnesses (for example, scurvy and an accelerated osteoperosis).  Some cosmonauts who developed a taste for moonshine would return to Earth many kilograms lighter and with the bone structure of an 80-year-old human.

In addition, authorities condemned the consumption of alcohol in space craft due to the technical mishaps and lack of productivity it caused.  Many expeditions were unnecessarily jeopardized due to the first instances of inebriated space travel.  Of these, the Soyuz TMA-82 gained a particular notoriety when cosmonaut Dmitri Lebed, after subduing his fellow crew, navigated the Soyuz into a geosynchronous orbit over Saturn’s moon Rhea and jettisoned the rest of the Soyuz’s fuel.  After regaining his sobriety, Lieutenant Lebed issued a distress call to the Putin Space Station over Mars.  By the time the rescue mission arrived the crew was dead due to a life support systems failure.

Alcohol produced in space quickly became a popular commodity.  Companies had no problems selling such names as “The Moon’s Shine” or “Venus Vodka”.  Though initially it was exceptionally expensive, space-based distilleries could turn out large enough quantities of space alcohol that they could undercut the prices of Earth-based establishments.  One company in particular, Captain Jack’s Space Distilleries, managed to corner and commandeer the rum market on Earth and in space.  Their campaign and slogan, “A New Captain for a New Century,” began the first of the distillery advertising wars between Earth-based and space-based distilleries.  The height of this marketing battle was reached when Orbital Distilling dropped a payload of their Zero-G Whiskey into the uncasking of Jack Daniel’s 250-year Anniversary Bourbon.  Though no one was injured, the drop resulted in $50,000 worth of damage to the Jack Daniel’s distillery.  Orbital was forced to pay a large sum of money to the Daniel’s company, but the boom in their sales more than made up for their legal costs.  Ironically, Orbital later bought Jack Daniel’s.

In recent years there has been a movement back to Earth-based operations.  The Earth First! movement has come to the forefront as an organization of Earth-based small-batch distilleries, and its marketing efforts have met with much success.  In particular, the “Work of Distillation in the Age of its Aura” campaign sparked a new demand for rums and brandy, both on and off planet.  The theoretician J._____ has speculated that this emotive response to the old and traditional points towards an inherently conservative trend in the human race.  However, Earth-based craft distilleries still only make up a fraction of the current liquor market.

SOURCES FOR INFORMATION AND INSPIRATION:

http://machinedesign.com/article/spacecraft-heatingcooling-systems-will-work-much-like-a-fridge-0106

http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/postsecondary/features/F_Food_for_Space_Flight.html

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