Suntory sends whisky into space for testing

The cargo vessel Kounotori preparing to dock with the space station. Japanese drinks giant Suntory wants to test how time in a zero-gravity environment affects the flavour of whisky.
The cargo vessel Kounotori preparing to dock with the space station. Japanese drinks giant Suntory wants to test how time in a zero-gravity environment affects the flavour of whisky.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • An unmanned cargo ship loaded with emergency supplies - including Japanese whisky - successfully docked at the International Space Station, officials said.

But thirsty astronauts will have to keep their hands off the golden tipple - it is for an experiment.

Drinks giant Suntory sent the booze to space so it could test how time in a zero-gravity environment affects its flavour.

Researchers for the company have said that storing the beverage in an environment with only slight temperature changes and limited liquid movement could lead to a mellower flavour.

The unusual cargo was placed inside the 5.5-tonne vessel "Kounotori" (stork in Japanese), which blasted off from southern Japan last Wednesday attached to an H-IIB rocket. It was also loaded with food, water, clothing and tools necessary for experiments in space.

Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui, 45, who is living at the ISS, used a robotic arm to grab the vessel before it was successfully berthed at the station early yesterday.

The cargo ship will leave the ISS and re-enter the earth's atmosphere in late September, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

In June, the unmanned SpaceX rocket exploded minutes after lift-off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, marking a major setback for the company headed by tech tycoon Elon Musk.

The accident was the third in less than a year involving US and Russian supply ships bound for the International Space Station, and raised new concerns about the flow of food and gear to astronauts living in orbit.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2015, with the headline 'Suntory sends whisky into space for testing'. Print Edition | Subscribe