Alcohol in Space!?

2 min read

One thing astronauts might miss when they are out in space is a nice cold beer. To avoid having a drunk, intoxicated astronaut on board, alcohol consumption is not allowed.  For obvious reasons, it negatively impacts the Environmental Control and Life Support System which is essential for the astronauts’ safety and health. In such a high-risk environment, astronauts cannot afford to lack judgment.

Besides, alcohols may react differently in space than back home on Earth. Bottles with alcohol in them have the potential to combust, and any gases produced from them could get trapped in the shuttle. Imagine beer foam in zero gravity – the carbonation would remain and make it difficult to drink. No Oktoberfest in this space shuttle!

This rule was not always enforced, however! During the early days of space exploration, small amounts of alcohol were allowed. Russian doctors recommended it to maintain astronauts’ immune systems. Buzz Aldrin even admitted to having a bit of wine during the moon landing.

Alcohol aboard aside, did you know that outside the space shuttle, deep within the galaxy, one would be able to find clouds of alcohol too? One alcohol cloud was discovered in 1995 near the Aquila constellation. Amongst other chemical compounds, it contains enough ethyl alcohol to fill up not just our entire solar system, but a thousand of our solar systems. Could we harvest them home? (No – they contain other harmful chemicals and is too far away).

But what is all that alcohol doing in space? Alcohols are relatively simple chemicals formed by carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. In space, hydrogen is already present in abundance while carbon and oxygen are mainly formed in stars. A combination of stellar clouds, stars and right conditions can lead to the formation of alcohol. Scientists are discovering such compounds in interstellar space and can use these discoveries to understand star formation better. As particles gravitate together to form a new star, alcohol heats up and turns to gas. For example, propanol can be found in star formation nurseries near the center of the milky way.

While we might never be able to taste or fill our shuttles with some intergalactic liquor, another space cloud, Sagittarius B2, has been known to also contain esters that add the taste of raspberries, and smells of rum.

Now you know what to order if you’d like a little taste of space.

Written by Lydia Konig
Illustrated by Jarrod Chua, Spaceytales

There are Giant Clouds of Alcohol Floating in Space | Mental Floss
Alcohol clouds in space (
Alcohol in Space | Inside the Cask
Can Astronauts Drink Alcohol In Space? [Does NASA Allow It?] (


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