Alcohol and spaceflight

Alcoholic drinks are generally disallowed in spaceflight, but space agencies have previously allowed its consumption.[1] NASA has been stricter about alcohol consumption than the Roscosmos, both according to regulations and in practice. Astronauts and cosmonauts are restricted from being intoxicated at launch. Despite restrictions on consumption, there have been experiments in making and keeping alcoholic drinks in space.

Drinking in space

The effects of alcohol on human physiology in microgravity have not been researched, though because medications can differ in their effects NASA expects that the effects of alcohol will also differ.[2] Beer and other carbonated drinks are not suitable for spaceflight as the bubbles cause 'wet burps'; a foamy head can also not form as the bubbles do not rise.[2]


On July 20, 1969, astronaut Buzz Aldrin drank some wine when he took communion in the Lunar Module during Apollo 11. The ceremony was not broadcast following earlier protests against religious activity that were perceived to breach the separation between church and state.[3]

In the 1970s, NASA's Charles Bourland planned to send sherry with the astronauts visiting Skylab, but the idea was scrapped because the smell was found to induce a gag reflex in zero-gravity flight tests, there was ambivalence among the astronauts, and angry letters were received after plans were discussed in public by Gerry Carr.[1][4][5] Alcohol is prohibited aboard the International Space Station due to the impact it can have on the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS).[6]

A 1985 NASA report on extended spaceflight predicted that alcohol would be missed, but would only become common in stable settlements.[7]


The Russian state media Russia Beyond says drinking has been officially banned, but the first alcoholic drink sent into space by cosmonauts was a bottle of cognac, to the Salyut-7 in 1971.[8] Cosmonaut Igor Volk said they would lose weight and hide alcohol in their spacesuits or hide bottles inside book covers, and Georgy Grechko discussed the difficulties of drinking in space as the liquid and air would mix to form froth.[8]

Cosmonauts aboard Mir were allowed alcoholic drinks including cognac, vodka, and "ginseng liquer", supposedly for health reasons, according to comments made by former cosmonaut Alexander Lazutkin to the Interfax news agency in 2010.[6][1] Cosmonaut Alexander Poleshchuk said bottles of cognac would be hidden behind panels on Mir.[9] American astronauts on Mir watched while their Russian colleagues drank; NASA tried to block the release of photographs of a 1997 "cognac party" onboard Mir, but James Oberg of NBC News obtained them via a freedom of information request.[10]

In 2006, the ban on cosmonauts drinking on the International Space Station (ISS) was proposed to be lifted, though champagne was still regarded as too dangerous.[9] Crew care packages cannot contain any alcohol, even in aftershave or mouthwash.[4]


In July 2007, following a scandal in which astronauts were alleged to have flown while drunk, NASA admitted that its rules around alcohol were vague and introduced a new rule prohibiting astronauts from being 'under the influence' and consuming alcohol within 12 hours of launch, based on the rules for T-38 training jets.[11][12]

Alcohol industry

A 3D-printed plastic whisky glass was designed for spaceflight in 2015, and whisky was sent to the ISS for four years to study the effect on its flavor.[4] One beer company sponsored a graduate student's research into brewing beer in space,[2] and in 2017 another planned to sponsor research on the ISS with the aim of serving beer on Mars.[13]

Making alcohol in space would be difficult, for example conventional distillation would be impossible in zero gravity and the volumes of liquid required are high.[13]

See also


  1. Dickerson, Kelly (February 2, 2016). "A surprising amount of booze has flown into space". Business Insider.
  2. Davison, Anna (July 31, 2007). "Beer in space: A short but frothy history". New Scientist.
  3. Cresswell, Matthew (September 13, 2012). "How Buzz Aldrin's communion on the moon was hushed up". The Guardian.
  4. Martin, Alan (September 9, 2015). "Alcohol in space: From communion wine to zero-gravity whisky". Alphr.
  5. Twilley, Nicola (January 31, 2014). "Why Astronauts Were Banned From Drinking Wine In Outer Space". Gizmodo.
  6. Lufkin, Bryan. "Why astronauts are banned from getting drunk in space". BBC Online. BBC. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  7. Connors, Mary M.; Harrison, Albert A.; Akins, Faren R. (1985). "Living Aloft: Human Requirements for Extended Spaceflight" (PDF). Ames Research Center. NASA. It is unlikely that alcohol as a social beverage will find its way into space, at least until relatively large and stable settlements are established. Alcohol, as a recreational drug, may be keenly missed by space travelers, since there is evidence that alcohol plays an important social role in exotic environments (p.8) ... With this level of cultural acceptance, alcohol could find its way into space when resupply arrangements are in place and when storage capacity is plentiful ... It is reasonable to assume that substitute methods of gratification will be sought, perhaps including the use of alcohol or other diverting drugs. Alternately, the self-censuring which restricts competitive interaction in confinement may also preclude the use of drugs (p. 246) ... If alcohol or drugs were to be available in space, problems associated with grief responses could be aggravated (p. 261)
  8. Levkovich, Yevgeny (April 12, 2017). "Space smugglers: How Russian cosmonauts sneak booze into outer space". RBTH.
  9. Saradzhyan, Simon (January 15, 2006). "Russia lets cosmonauts drink - but they musn't go into orbit". The Telegraph.
  10. Boyle, Alan (October 14, 2010). "Alcohol in space? Da!". NBC News.
  11. Schwartz, John (July 29, 2007). "The Astronaut's Drinking Rules". New York Times.
  12. O’Connor, Bryan (August 28, 2007). "Space Flight Safety Review (Alcohol Use In The Preflight Period)" (PDF). NASA Office of Safety and Mission Assurance. NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.
  13. Stockton, Nick (March 22, 2017). "What's the point of going to space if you don't make booze?". Wired.

Further reading

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