Being an astronaut on the International Space Station is full of challenges — chief among them, according to Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, is the lack of decent coffee. And that guy nearly drowned in his own helmet on a space walk, so if he thinks coffee is the biggest problem then it’s clearly a huge issue. Italy wants to fix that, so they’re sending an espresso machine to space.
A collaboration of coffee company Lavazza, the Italian Space Agency, and Italian aerospace firm Argotec, the “ISSpresso,” as it’s been named, is being launched later this year along with Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, Italy’s first female astronaut. She’s not scheduled to launch until November, but she’s already tweeting about her training and mission prep.
— Sam Cristoforetti (@AstroSamantha) June 15, 2014
The ISSpresso machine uses steel tubes in place of the plastic tubes used in boring Earth-based coffee machines. That will allow the machine to withstand much higher pressure. Besides espresso, the machine will be able to offer other drinks as well. It certainly seems like a step up from the current coffee offerings (cofferings?) on the ISS, which are limited to mixing powders in pouches. What the ISSpresso doesn’t seem to fix is the pouch issue. Its beverages will also be served in pouches, which means the astronauts still won’t be able to smell their coffee, which is arguably the best thing about drinking coffee.
What really sets the ISSpresso apart from its Earth counterparts is that the water it uses to make the coffee comes from recycled urine and other waste water from the ISS. That’s not exclusive to the ISSpresso, though. The urine-recycling water system has been part of life on the ISS for some time now. Canadian astronaut/rock star Chris Hadfield even released a video while onboard the ISS explaining the system. It may sound gross to most people back on Earth, but the system helps address the serious issue of water and waste management in space, and could even help lead to further, longer space flights to places like Mars.
Lavazza has released this video giving a preview of the ISSpresso and how it works:
- Chris Hadfield explains how the ISS urine-recycling system works
- The last NASA shuttle mission had a urine-recycling experiment years ago
- A new method could convert space pee into water and power