In July 2014, we went to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to launch our live brewer’s yeast into space. The amateur rocket broke speed and distance records, displaying a launch that was impressive, exciting but did not give us the result we hoped for. Our live yeast would only be able to survive for 10 hours in the hot desert, and sadly it took 27 days to find the capsule and the brewer’s yeast. By that time the yeast had perished.
To preserve and protect yeast as it travelled out beyond the Earth is the goal of the Ninkasi Space Program. This is an extension of human history in terms of creating a potable life-sustaining source of nourishment that allows us to live in inhospitable conditions while bringing joy and happiness. We were invigorated with the idea of another launch and excited about working alongside the professional rocketeers from UP Aerospace. Most importantly, we were determined to fulfill our true mission: brew a tasty space beer.
So in October 2014 we were off to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where one can find relaxing hot springs as well as a new place to shoot off a rocket. Spaceport America is where UP Aerospace launches their rockets, and our yeast was along for the ride. A perfect place to send brewer’s yeast into space, Truth or Consequences provided literal and figurative security, as recovery would be assisted by the US Army stationed at the White Sands Missile Range adjacent to Spaceport America.
Our fearless leaders, Nikos and Jamie, made the trek to New Mexico and ultimately Spaceport America. With brewer’s yeast in hand they joined the Up Aerospace team and passed along the precious cargo to be loaded just two feet from the front tip of the rocket.
Heavy storms bringing brilliant lightning and surprisingly violent thunder pushed back the initial launch. The wait was destined to continue as the launch was postponed until later in the week. This was the first UP Aerospace mission, and only the second Spaceport America mission overall, to be postponed because of weather. Kind of our luck thus far.
Unspoken tension enveloped us all on the rescheduled launch morning, bringing memories of July’s disappointment. NSP’s success, and the fate of our space beer, was to be determined in the next few hours. Finally our prayers to the Goddess Ninkasi were answered as the rocket (SPaceLoft-9) successfully launched. All of its fuel was burned within 12 seconds, and it coasted to space within 60 seconds. The rocket achieved an altitude of 408,035 ft. (77.3 miles above the earth) and our yeast ultimately remained weightless for over four minutes. It eventually fell into a flat spin descent to earth with the rocket parachute opening about 6,000 ft above ground. Retrieval by US Army helicopter was successful and swift, leaving one final question for our NSP team: How was the yeast?
Jamie had first contact with our space yeast, but viability could not be determined by eye. It was not until a couple of anxious days of waiting, as the yeast was carefully transported back to Ninkasi labs, that the brewer’s yeast we sent high into space was finally tested and determined viable, healthy, and ready for brewing. Yeah! Space Beer at last!