Why in space you can not drink alcohol

In the difficult history of the relations of space and sometimes all alcohol and wine on the moon, and whiskey on the space station, says columnist for BBC Future.

Travel in the vast inky darkness thousands of miles away from Earth is hard work. It is intertwined with stress and fear.

So why would astronauts not relax and treat yourself to a cocktail when the day comes to an end?

Unfortunately explorers, a drink on the International space station they will not succeed because the government agencies responsible for the organization of flights, prohibit the use of alcoholic beverages in space.

However, nearing the hour when the exploration of space will be able to engage ordinary people — for example, those who will fly to Mars for research and colonization of the planet.

In heavy multi-year journey, at one end, they certainly should be allowed to take alcohol, or at least the equipment for manufacturing of alcoholic beverages on the red planet.

In truth, the space and the alcohol had an uneasy relationship. Let’s see what might happen with astronauts who are not averse to drink, and what will be the consequences of sending into space alcohol.

It is widely believed that drinking alcohol on the plane at high altitude, we quickly feel the intoxication.

It is logical to assume that the consumption of alcohol on orbit is expected to affect the person even more strangely, however, in reality it is not.

This myth was debunked back in the 1980s, namely in 1985, when the Federal aviation administration, the United States tried to find whether the use of alcohol in the space simulator at the complex tasks and readings on breathalyzers.

In the study, 17 men were asked to drink vodka in normal conditions and in a special chamber, stimulirovanie the conditions of being at the altitude of 3.7 km.

Then they had to decide in your mind the mathematical examples, to control the motion of a point on the oscilloscope screen with the joystick and perform other tasks.

Scientists have discovered that “drinking alcohol at altitude is not affected by any testimony breathalyzers or test results”.

So really more rapid onset of intoxication in flight is a myth?

Dave Hanson, Professor Emeritus of sociology from the state University of new York at Potsdam, for more than 40 years exploring alcohol and the consequences of its use, thinks so.

“I see no reasons why the consumption of alcohol in space can be different,” he says.

In his opinion, the symptoms of altitude sickness can be taken in a hangover and intoxication.

“It so happens that at low pressure the people are feeling not quite sober,” says Hanson.

In fact, those who believe that on Board the plane drunk faster than in normal conditions, can only experience the effect of “psychological intoxication” that scientists investigate for many years.

It lies in the fact that the person is more inclined to behave like a drunken man when he thinks that drunk, not when you really used a lot of alcohol.

“If a man flying in an airplane, for some reason believes that alcohol will affect him differently, and it would seem that drunk faster,” says Hanson.

In this case, if at a high altitude the effect of alcohol on the body is not increased, why would the inhabitants of the ISS does not ignore the nightcap, would you?

It turns out that you can not do that.

“On Board the International space station alcohol is not allowed,” says Daniel G. Huot, the representative of the Space center of NASA Johnson.

“The use of alcohol and other volatile compounds on the ISS is strictly controlled, as they can interfere with the operation of the system for water recovery,” he adds.

For this reason, astronauts living on the space station, can’t use alcohol-based liquids, like mouthwash for oral cavity, Cologne or aftershave.

Even if the astronauts all just raspuskaet a few Beers during a drunken revelry in orbit, it can seriously damage the equipment.

In addition, we must not forget that the astronauts have a great responsibility.

Vehicle drivers and aircraft pilots are not permitted to drive a vehicle while intoxicated, it is not surprising that the same rules apply to the astronauts aboard the ISS cost 150 billion U.S. dollars, which orbits at a speed of 27 700 km/h.

However, in 2007, an independent Commission established by NASA to study the health of the astronauts, said that in the entire history of the existence of the Agency at least two astronauts just before the flight into space had consumed alcohol in large quantities, but they are still allowed to fly.

Later, the head of the security service of NASA stated that these allegations are baseless.

Astronauts are strictly forbidden to consume alcohol for 12 hours prior to departure, so that they act consciously and was alert.

The reason for the introduction of such rules is quite clear. The authors of the previously mentioned studies, 1985 the effects of alcohol at altitude have concluded that every detail is important.

No matter what height a person may drink alcohol, breathalyser readings were the same.

To perform tasks alcohol also affected equally, but those who received placebo on top, showed the worst results than those who received placebo at sea level.

This suggests that the height still has little effect on mental activity, regardless of alcohol consumption.

The authors of the study conclude that “the height further enhances the negative effects of alcohol on performance tasks”.

There is another reason why in space you should avoid foam drinks like beer — mixing in the stomach in the absence of gravity, liquid and gases can cause severe belching.

However, the presence of strict rules does not mean that the space people have never come into contact with alcoholic beverages.

Aboard the ISS, there were many experiments with alcohol, but they were not related to its use in large quantities, and therefore no one knows exactly how it will react to the human body.

“We carefully study the changes taking place in human organism during his stay in space, including the microbial level,” says a spokesperson for NASA’s Stephanie Shierholz.

“For astronauts developed a special diet that contains all the necessary body substances. In the framework of the Skylab astronauts had planned to give a sherry, but he bad shown itself in microgravity,” she adds.

Shierholz, says sherry, was used for the testing, “caused a gag reflex, and, in addition, the public did not support this idea.”

However, the most surprising fact is the fact that the first liquid drunk by man on the surface of the moon was wine.

In interviews and in his book, buzz Aldrin said that, before landing with Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969, he drank a little wine during the sacrament of Holy communion (which he was allowed to spend in space, it’s Presbyterian Church — Ed.).

Communion was held during the information break and therefore not aired.

And although NASA has long been banned to drink alcohol in space for Russian cosmonauts in the past such stringent restrictions did not apply.

Astronauts on the orbital station “Mir” was allowed to drink brandy and vodka in small quantities. Perhaps their colleagues are upset that aboard the ISS there is prohibition.

However, some intoxicating drink, still get to the ISS. In 2015, the Japanese spirits company Suntory, which has its own international center of innovation, brought its award-winning whiskey on Board the space station.

This was done in the framework of the experiment aimed at tracking “influence of microgravity on the maturation of alcoholic beverages.”

In other words, in the microgravity environment of alcohol can ripen differently and faster to acquire the desired taste. Like it or not, certainly would like to know any alcohol company.

A few years earlier, from September 2011 to September 2014, NASA funded an experiment to study the effects of microgravity on the whiskey and charred oak, contributing to the ripening process.

After 1000 days in space, the content of tannins in the whiskey remains the same, but the wood chips, once in space, changed their properties: for example, in the beverage increased concentration of degradation products of lignin, which gives the whiskey a distinctive taste.

“This observation is of great importance not only for the malt whisky industry, but also for the industry of food and beverages in General,” — said the representative of NASA.

“The difference in taste between the samples from MS and control samples as pronounced, to identify its causes would require further analysis.”

So even despite the fact that the astronauts are forbidden to drink in orbit, pursued their work can contribute to improving the quality of alcohol consumed on Earth.

Given the fact that the planned mission to Mars will last not months and years, the ban on alcohol, perhaps it is worth to soften.

However, some experts, including Hanson, I do not see anything wrong to keep it. In addition to the practical reasons of security, they see it and other problems.

According to Hanson, in connection with many socio-cultural differences, which in a confined space will appear even brighter, the issue of drinking may become problematic.

“It’s a question of politics and culture, and not a scientific question, he says. — This will create a basis for conflict, because, due to their cultural background people have different attitude to this”.

What if you live next to Muslims, Mormons or convinced abstainers?

Hanson insists that peaceful coexistence in a confined space for an indefinite amount of time, you must first smooth out cultural contradictions.

Therefore, the astronauts, apparently, have to accept the fact that to set the mood in orbit they are more likely to be the types in a window than alcohol.

And for those who will be waiting for them on the Ground, will only prepare the required amount of champagne to toast their return.