Is it time to get your whiskey buzz on in space? Not quite. But there are people at whiskey maker Ballantine’s and at the Open Space Agency working hard to see that if the International Space Station changes its no alcohol policy, the proper 3D printed whiskey glass will be available to astronauts jonesing to wet their whiskey whistle under microgravity conditions.
What has to happen to design and then 3D print the first space whiskey glass? Surface tension is key. Although the outside of the glass appears to be a normal whiskey glass, the operations on the inside are quite complex –like the taste of a finely blended whiskey. Lovely looking, 3D printed rose gold, shaped into a spiral, keeps whiskey at the bottom of the glass while increasing surface tension. The ‘glass,’ of course, is printed in plastic.
A helix draws whiskey in a spiral up the glass and holds it there until the astronaut takes a sip, using the rose gold mouthpiece, that provides a smoother drinking experience. The glass is covered by a lid that keeps the liquid contained. It’s as simple as that!
But wait! It’s not actually so simple. People seem drawn to the intrigue of designing glasses for space because of the scientific and technological challenges inherent in the process. While this design team makes it look easy, there are other steps of course that must be followed. A custom nozzle with a one-way valve at the glass’ bottom infuses the whiskey into the glass, and then inertia does its work. While the whiskey is pulled down into the base of the glass, the heat of your hand rolling the glass is transferred through the metal base to the whiskey.
Open Space Agency founder James Parr was on the team that designed the glass. And here he explains the final steps that lead to that smooth space age sipping:
“Step three involves then moving the glass down prior to moving your nose into the space where the vapours are resting. The final motion is to move the glass upwards to capture the liquid in the base plate and let it enter your mouth.”
Then the idea that this will actually work in space needs to be tested under the closest to optimal microgravity conditions, which is why the Space Glass then headed to the ZARM Drop Tower at Germany’s University of Bremen. The whiskey did exactly as expected, staying in the baseplate and then winding its way up that fancy, rose gold helix. Good work, everyone!
In the following video about the Space Glass design, printing, and testing process, Parr explains why 3D printing was chosen for this project:
“The Space Glass is 3D printed, which is the technology of the future. It’s the way we are going to make things in space. There is a 3D printer now at the International Space Station. Astronauts could print the Space Glass now, which could solve the problem they have now which is how to drink. It’s something that needs to be resolved. I love the idea of astronauts using the Space Glass right away.”
And there’s even more to the story.
Ballantine’s has prepared a special Space Blend, which, among other things, has additional “sherry matured malt” to add some more flavor, making it “considerably more concentrated” and to “add an extra dimension” to the blend. Tasting flavors, like whiskey itself, is a hard thing to come by way out there in the wild blue yonder… Why not call this (pun intended) the “Buzz Blend” after the second man to step foot on the moon?
Now, who’s going to start a petition stating that astronauts should have the right to throw back a few (or sip slowly) on their down time? Let us know your thoughts on this space-age design in the 3D Printed Whiskey Glass for Astronauts forum thread over at 3DPB.com.