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I will grant that launching a can of soda pop, or beer into space would be very expensive. Alternately it is not unreasonable to make it in the space station, carbonated drink makers are easily available Earth side for under $100 (US).

Assuming you have your cold carbonated drink, and are floating in the ISS or a commercial space station/craft, would you be able to enjoy it?

Not enjoy =

  • without gravity the carbonation boils of explosively
  • without gravity peristalsis is not sufficient to move the carbonated drink to your stomach and keep it there
  • for some reason it is not possible to cool drinks in space and you can only have luke warm beverages
  • something else unpleasant I have not thought of

Related How do astronauts drink or eat in space?

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    $\begingroup$ It's been tried! See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cola_wars and my answer to this question space.stackexchange.com/questions/10350/… Ancedotal evidence says the drinks were unpleasant. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ I read the post flight mission reports for STS-63 and -77, the space coke machine flights. Neither even mentioned them :( $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ Remember, you can't burp in zero-g. The only way the carbonation is coming out is by the rear end and I don't think the process of getting there is going to be too enjoyable. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 2:44
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    $\begingroup$ Burping in zero-g should be possible too. But the separation of gases and liquids within the stomach like on earth would not work. There is the risk of inhaling liquid drops from the stomach into the lungs which is dangerous for lungs tissue because of the acid from the stomach. Exhaling liquid drops is dangerous for the hardware of the space station. But carbon dioxide from the drink could be transported by blood circulation and exhaled just like carbon dioxide from the bodies metabolism. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ Related question posted Spinning in space to manage gas? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 16:36

2 Answers 2

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According to Sunita Williams, Robert Frost, Chris Hadfield, and backed up by NASA's website, besides it being fluffy & gross, it would make you burp, which is "kind of like acid reflux". I conclude this would be unpleasant.

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Answer: Yes, but fizzy drink consumption needs special considerations.

Explosive Decompression. The drink would "boil off explosively" only in a vacuum, but not inside the ISS pressure hull. The real problem is there is no gravity to separate gas from liquid, so froth (not gas) would come out if you popped a cold one. This is a technological problem, similar to separating ullage froth from propellant.

Recently NASA posted a $80,000 design contest for a device to separate propellant from frothy ullage while refueling in microgravity. I hope they apply the winning device to brown pops. Food and beverages in the ISS don't use supermarket packaging. Amber beverages have special needs as well. We need to get the clever chaps in engineering to work on this problem. I have a device in mind but I'm saving it for the prize.

Propulsive Discharge. The "cold gas thruster" effect (posterior discharge of CO2) is greatly exaggerated. CO2 is highly soluble in blood. CO2 taken in by mouth is absorbed through the lining of the small intestine into the bloodstream, and then exhaled by the lungs. The gasses generated at the other end (methane and CO2) are products of fermentation (which mostly occurs in the large intestine). Flatus also contains swallowed nitrogen (a bit of air goes down each time you swallow). Unlike oxygen and CO2, nitrogen has very low solubility in blood so it is not absorbed in the small intestine.

What goes down must come up? Not necessarily. Peristalsis is so effective, it can overcome negative-Gs, let alone micro-G. Generations of frat boys have demonstrated this by drinking beer while standing on their heads. My mother-in-law did it once. But her application for astronaut training was rejected.

Guinness Goodness. I suggest a trial of Guinness on the ISS. The can is partially pressurized with nitrogen, and the foam is so dense astronauts may want a spoon to enjoy it. It has significantly less CO2 than other beverages.

To enjoy a carbonated beverage in microgravity, a few things need to be optimized:

-manufacture the beverage with the least CO2 compatible with the serving temperature.

-Serve as close to body temperature as palatable. As the beverage warms from serving temperature to body temperature inside the stomach, it releases CO2 .

-Decant using the patented Foam-B-Gone ullage separator. Coming soon to a Walmart near you.

-Enjoy at a leisurely pace. This gives time for CO2 in the stomach to pass into the small intestine, rather than build up and be regurgitated.

-Do not consume carbonated mixer as a spiked drink. Alcohol delays gastric emptying, and CO2 is poorly absorbed from stomach to blood stream. This increases the risk of regurgitation.

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    $\begingroup$ The lungs only extract about one fourth of the oxygen that we breath in. It's apparently only recently discovered that mammals also extract oxygen from the intestines, but the amount absorbed is currently unknown, at least based on what I read when researching whether the oxygen pills in Robinson Crusoe on Mars would have worked. Maybe the amount absorbed by the intestines has now been quantified, but either way I suspect that there might also be a certain amount of oxygen in the "propellant". $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @StevePemberton ... there was some interesting work done during COVID (when ventilators were in short supply) exploring "ventilation" using the intestines instead of the lungs. There were some interesting animal experiments, but no clinical applications. It's difficult getting adequate flow (5-8 liters/minute) through the GI tract. $\endgroup$
    – Woody
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ Woody - that's one thing I was wondering about, the low flow rate related to efficiency. I.e. air spends more time in the intestines so maybe it is more efficient extracting oxygen than the lungs per volume of air, but of course the low volume also results in less overall quantity of oxygen extracted. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ @StevePemberton ... another problem was that best absorption was attained when the lining of the intestine was "buffed up a bit" with cotton swabs. Not for me. $\endgroup$
    – Woody
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 2:38

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