After female space astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy landed on the International Space Station (ISS) on Nov. 24 and joined Elana Serova of Russia to mark the second time in the space station’s 16-year history that two women make up the long-term, six-member crew – there was also was a first-time in history event captured.
For the first time ever an astronaut was able to get a caffeine fix while at zero gravity. Cristoferetti. along with Italian coffee makers Lavazza teamed up with space food specialist engineering firm Argotec to create a special and lightweight machine that allowed astronauts on the space station to drink expresso.
A team of researchers at Portland State University and a high school student were the brains behind designing the cup that astronauts drank from. According to Nov. 26 news report by USAgNet, during the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting in San Francisco recently, Nathan Ott, a high school student working with Mark Weislogel, a professor in the Thermal and Fluid Sciences Group at Portland State University, and Drew Wollman, a researcher within that same group, described studying and working with a variety of capillary fluidic effects to enable espresso in gravity-free environments.
The research team explained in the USAgnet report that espresso is distinguished primarily by a complex low-density colloid of emulsified oils. And, due to gravity, these oils rise to the surface to form a foam lid called the “crema” — the reliable production of which can make or break the reputations of baristas everywhere.
This quest for alternatives by the team led to the design of the special 3-D printable espresso space cup. The group is now trying the new methods developed to reassess all fluid systems aboard spacecraft — including cooling systems, fuel tanks, water processing equipment for life support, plant and animal habitats and medical fluids.