These Astrobiology Students Are trying to Brew Beer On the Moon

Credit: Lew Robertson / Getty Images

There’s a chance that beer will be brewed on the moon this year, in the form of a glorified home-brewing experiment.

According to Space.com, an experiment designed to test the viability of yeast on the moon was short-listed in a 25-team competition promoting sustainable life on the moon. The winning team would have their prototype launch with a rover sent into space by TeamIndus, an Indian team of researchers participating in the Google Lunar XPrize.

The Google Lunar XPrize in an international competition with a $30 million prize purse requiring participants to race to the moon, or more specifically, build, launch, and land a spacecraft on the moon’s surface; travel 500 meters; and transmit high-definition video and images back to earth. The first team to do so wins a grand prize of $20 million.

Currently, five teams are confirmed to compete for the prize: TeamIndus, from India; SpaceIL, of Israel; Moon Express, from the U.S.; Synergy Moon, an international team; and Hakuto, representing Japan.

In addition to vying for the Google Lunar XPrize, TeamIndus decided to hold their own competition, Lab2Moon, inviting researchers under 25 years of age to conceptualize, design, and construct an experiment that could theoretically help humankind develop a sustainable settlement on the moon.

Enter a group of University of California San Diego (UCSD) Jacobs School of Engineering students, who also happen to make up the UCSD Astrobiology Club — Johnny Koo, Jared Buchanan, Han Lu Ling, Neeki Ashari, Srivaths Kalyan, and Tavish Traut — whose collective appreciation for astrobiology and home brewing got them thinking about yeast’s potential applications in a moon society, not the least of which is, you guessed it, brewing beer.

(Other lesser uses include making bread, other foods, and pharmaceuticals.)

Between their Lab2Moon team name, “Original Gravity” — a brewing term referring to the amount of sugar suspended in wort, the boiled liquid that will become beer after fermentation — and their project name, “ALEiens!,” we think they earned that spot on the rover already.

“The idea started out with a few laughs amongst a group of friends,” said Neeki Ashari, who is a fifth-year bioengineering student as well as Original Gravity’s PR & operations lead. “We all appreciate the craft of beer, and some of us own our own home-brewing kits. When we heard that there was an opportunity to design an experiment that would go up on India’s moonlander, we thought we could combine our hobby with the competition by focusing on the viability of yeast in outer space.”

Original Gravity designed a device that they believe could “brew” beer on the moon (technically, the wort would be made beforehand, so only the fermentation part of the process would actually take place on the moon), sent TeamIndus their statement and this video explaining the process, and were selected as one of 25 final teams eligible to move on to phase two. A total of 3,000 applicants from more than 300 cities in 15 countries around the world were considered.

For phase two, Original Gravity and 24 other teams, whose projects span topics from radiation-shielding bacteria to a lunar gene bank for endangered species, will present prototypes of their concepts to an international jury of experts in Bangalore, India, in March.

The winning team will join TeamIndus in launching their project into space on December 28, 2017. Get updates on Original Gravity’s progress on the Lab2Moon website