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Photo: Space Tango

“Civilization begins with distillation,” as William Faulkner once famously claimed. Alcohol in its many forms has been a part of organized human societies from the advent of recorded history, with Sumerians and prehistoric peoples in China fermenting beer 5,000 years ago, and perhaps earlier.

It figures that as human civilization plans to make a giant leap beyond the Earth to Mars, our brews would come with us, too.

Budweiser has announced it will send thousands of its barley seeds aboard the SpaceX CRS-13 rocket on Dec. 4, with the intention of testing how they grow in microgravity conditions at the International Space Station. The tests are expected to lay the foundation for bringing beer to Mars on forthcoming human missions to the fourth planet, the company announced last week.

Some 3,500 dry seeds will be examined during the month-long mission to understand the DNA of the best cultivars, Anheuser-Busch explained in several statements on the science.

Another 20 seeds will be packaged in two Cube Labs made by the space science developer Space Tango. Those boxes will include a growth media. The trials will examine the exposure effects of the environment on the seeds, and also their germination process, according to the companies. (The two seed groups will be given automated growth lighting to mimic that back on Earth, and detailed imaging will provide real-time growth monitoring).

Amid the initial stages of growth, a biological fixating will be administered to the plants to preserve the plants for inspection back on terra firma, where the seedlings will be inspected for genetic alterations and growth abnormalities.

“Anheuser-Busch pushes the boundaries of innovation in the beverage industry just as Space Tango is pushing the boundaries of innovation in microgravity research,” said Gentry Barnett, Space Tango’s program manager. “This partnership will not only produce scientific data that could lead to barley production improvements on Earth but could also lead to the first beer produced on Mars.”

The beer company had announced its plans to be the first brew on Mars at this year’s South by Southwest conference.

The experiments are being helmed by Gary Hanning, the director of global barley research for Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in Fort Collins, Colo. The company invoked some high ideals in making the interplanetary leap, in a recent statement.

“Budweiser is always pushing the boundaries of innovation and we are inspired by the collective American Dream to get to Mars,” said Ricardo Marques, a vice president at Budweiser. “We are excited to begin our research to brew beer for the red planet.”

The Budweiser barley experiment is just one of many tests expected to be sent up to the ISS next Monday aboard the SpaceX rocket. Other experiments include: the observation of Tetranite, a synthetic bone material that helps healing; a continuation of the Characterizing Arabidopsis Root Attractions-2 (CARA-2) plant growth experiments overseen by Anna-Lisa Paul of the University of Florida; the study of the fluid movement at play in an implantable glucose biosensor for use in diabetes management; the review of rodent models for gradual drug-release nanochannel implants; and the examination of microgravity’s effects on a device intended to continuously separate liquids in continuous flow chemistry.

“This launch culminates an impressive year of research onboard the International Space Station and the U.S. National Laboratory,” said Ken Shields, the director of operations for the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).

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