An unusual payload launched for the International Space Station this weekend. Among the 8,200 pounds of research, crew supplies, and hardware contained in a Northrup Grumman resupply rocket, there were also twelve bottles of wine, as pointed out by TechCrunch.

Sadly, the wine isn't meant for astronaut consumption. The twelve ISS-bound bottles of an undisclosed varietal are the work of French startup Space Cargo Unlimited, which gave the mission the whimsical Latin name "Vitis Vinum in Spatium Experimentia," which translates roughly to "Wine Grape in Space Experiment." The project is meant to study the effects of microgravity and space radiation on the aging process of wine.

For the next twelve months, the wine will remain on the ISS, sealed in its glass bottles, while samples from the batch age simultaneously back on Earth. After the space wine returns to Earth, the researchers will analyze both samples to determine how space aging affects the fermentation process of wine, including a bit of taste testing to see how flavors may have changed.

According to Space Cargo Unlimited's website, the mission is "the first privately lead comprehensive research program on the ISS" to focus "on the future of agriculture for a changing Earth."

But it isn't the first time fermented beverages have left the launchpad. In fact, both beer and whisky have both made space debuts. There was once even a time when Russian cosmonauts tippled cognac on the since-decommissioned space station Mir — at the request of doctors who claimed, dubiously, that it might have health benefits.

The Space Cargo project will hopefully produce insights into space fermentation, but may also represent a first tentative step toward establishing space-based commerce. That's because of the startup's business model which, as reported by Quartz, involves a system in which "the research will be paid for in part by a luxury goods partnership that will deliver a customized chest full of objects flown to space to ultra-wealthy sponsors, called patrons, who back the project. The highlight of that chest will be a bottle of the wine."

Such a plan, though gimmicky, isn't entirely farfetched. In a climate where NASA's budget is facing ever-tighter restrictions, the future may depend more on space PR stunts, such as this one. But hey, if that's what it takes to put space-aged Cab Sauv on the wine list, we'll drink.

READ MORE: A startup just launched red wine to the International Space Station to age for 12 months [TechCrunch]

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