Drinking Alcohol in Space: Is It Possible?4 min read

Have you ever wondered if astronauts drink alcohol in space? Buzz Aldrin did take communion while on the moon and consumed a tiny bit of wine. However, since then, NASA has prohibited American astronauts from drinking in space. Russian astronauts have done so much more frequently. Russian doctors actually prescribed drinking cognac to help relax the men and stimulate their immune systems.

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Because of NASA’s rule, there have been little to no tests confirming the effects of consuming alcohol in space. However, due to the carbonation aspect of many alcoholic drinks, even small amounts will result in wet burps for the astronauts because there is no way for the gas bubbles to rise inside them. Scientists theorize that there would be differences in metabolism and either an increased or decreased effect from the alcohol when consumed in space, but there is no definitive evidence as of yet.

Making Beer in Space

In 2013, 11-year-old Michal Bodzianowski from Colorado invented a microbrewery that could be sent into outer space so that astronauts could make beer and drink it easily. Michael got the idea from learning about the poor water quality during the Middle Ages. He decided that if there was a shortage of clean water in space, the astronauts could use his device to get hydration quickly, and the alcohol would instantly purify the contaminated water.

This sixth-grader won a contest sponsored by the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, and his invention was scheduled to be sent to the international space station in December of 2013. Meanwhile, his school and community worked hard to raise the $21,500 needed to actually launch his invention into space.

The idea is sound enough if nothing goes wrong with the microbrewery or its ingredients. However, due to NASA’s ban on alcohol, it may never get the chance to be tested.

Drinking on the Job: Never a Good Idea

NASA has banned alcohol on any space missions, and with good reason. It is never a good idea to drink or become even slightly impaired while on the job. It is even more critical for astronauts manning a spacecraft to be on alert and able to react quickly to any contingency.

Drinking too much alcohol, even when you aren’t on the job, can result in a lot of negative aspects that could affect your career and your workplace. Someone who drinks too much may start showing up late for work or calling in sick. They may seem irritable or look disheveled and unkempt. You may even smell alcohol on them, even if they only drank the night before.

According to A Better Today, “employees with alcohol addictions are 270% more likely to have an injury-related absence resulting in missed days of work and low productivity.” If people with alcohol issues suffer from weakened productivity and efficiency, you can imagine the impact if this was to happen while in space. The stakes are way too high to allow drinking in space. Astronauts cannot afford any decrease in reaction time.

Alcohol Intoxication/Poisoning

When you drink too much alcohol quickly, you run the risk of developing alcohol intoxication. Alcohol poisoning, as it is sometimes called, is very serious and can lead to death or coma. Anyone, young or old, can be affected by this issue. People who drink too much vanilla extract or mouthwash have even suffered alcohol intoxication.

Alcohol produces a few effects on the human body. In smaller doses, the drinker may feel excited or euphoric. As you consume more alcohol, you become less focused and may be confused or even act as if in a stupor. After continued drinking, your body cannot handle the excess alcohol, and as your BAC rises, you could enter a coma or even die.

Drinking high-alcohol content drinks in a short amount of time can cause alcohol intoxication. Other factors that affect whether or not your body becomes poisoned is weight, body type, your overall health, if you have eaten or not, and your alcohol tolerance level.

The Effects of Drinking Alcohol in Space

Alcohol does not last too long in the body. It metabolizes at a rate of “20 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) per hour.” That means if your blood alcohol level were 40mg, it would take you two hours to fully metabolize it out of your system. Metabolizing alcohol is very consistent and works the same with everyone. Blood alcohol level, however, can affect everyone differently.

Alcohol affects people differently due to many factors such as age, weight, food consumption and liver issues. Drinking large quantities of alcohol while taking medications can also exacerbate or lessen the effects of alcohol and the concentration level in your blood.

So few American astronauts have drunk alcohol in space that there is no explicit data on the effects and how they felt while drinking in space. It makes good sense that drinking in space is frowned upon by NASA, because every mission is fraught with risk and danger. Crew members must keep their wits about them at all times to react quickly to any emergency that arises.

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Avery Phillips is a freelance human based out of the beautiful Treasure Valley. She loves all things nature, especially humans, and was driven to pursue an Anthropology degree due to her childhood love of Indiana Jones and Laura Croft. Now she lovingly writes about all things great and small.

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