Will Beer Be Served On Mars?

Barley Germination and Malting in Microgravity, an experiment aboard the Dragon capsule soon to be on board the International Space Station.

Global Barley Research / Space Tango patch
Global Barley Research Patch.

This project will explore the effects of spaceflight on the germination of strains of an important food crop, barley (Hordeum vulgare), including proprietary strains under development. Twenty seeds are being sent to the ISS aboard the Dragon Capsule launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9. The launch is targeted for December 4th, 2017 at 2:53 PM EST. Observing changes in gene expression and germination after exposure to microgravity contributes to knowledge about how different cultivars (plants of the same species that possess genetic differences) may be better prepared to handle Earth-based stress, such as temperature extremes or water scarcity. An important ingredient for Budweiser, barley is also the 4th largest cereal grain grown in the world and is grown in diverse environments. Studying barley in microgravity may reveal new information regarding the germination process and identify key genes that enable some cultivars to survive in stressful environments.

Barley a member of the grass family is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally. It was one of the first cultivated grains, particularly in Eurasia as early as 10,000 years ago. 

Nutrition Facts

Barley Hulled

Amount Per 1 Cup (184g)
Calories 651
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4.2 g6%
Saturated fat 0.9 g4%
Polyunsaturated fat 2 g 
Monounsaturated fat 0.5 g 
Cholesterol 0 mg0%
Sodium 22 mg0%
Potassium 832 mg23%
Total Carbohydrate 135 g45%
Dietary fiber 32 g128%
Sugar 1.5 g 
Protein 23 g46%


Vitamin A0%Vitamin C0%
Vitamin D0%Vitamin B-630%
Vitamin B-120%Magnesium61%


*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Source: Wikipedia


Credit: Space Tango

‘One of the experiments will focus on barley seed exposure with the second testing barley germination. Not only will the research offer insights on steps to creating beer on the Red Planet, but it could also provide valuable information on the production of barley and the larger agricultural community here on earth’ Budweiser Press Release Nov 21, 2017

As posted at NASA.com the Germination of ABI Voyager Barley Seeds in Microgravity project evaluates the effects of a microgravity environment on dry seeds, germination, and initial growth of Hordeum vulgare L. (barley). The dry barley seeds are evaluated during post-flight growth to examine exposure effects on seeds. The seedlings grown in microgravity are evaluated for genetic alterations and morphological abnormalities.

Credit: Space Tango

 Space Applications

Barley is a versatile grain equipped with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals essential to health. By furthering the knowledge of barley’s response to microgravity, investigators find ways to adapt the grain for long-duration spaceflight.

Earth Applications

Barley is an important grain used in a large variety of products, from bread to beer. By exposing barley to a space environment, morphological and genetic alterations may arise, broadening the knowledge of the grain and improving its use for terrestrial applications.

Major barley producers in 2014
CountryProduction (millions of tonnes)
 United Kingdom6.9
Source: FAOSTAT of the United NationsFood and Agriculture Organization, Statistics Division, 2014[5]


Credit: Space Tango

Operational Requirements and Protocols

The science is part of Payload Card-5 and it is contained into one 2U CubeLab for soft stow ascent (dry seeds) and two 2U CubeLabs for cold-stow ascent (germination). The dry seeds CubeLab remains in soft stow for the duration of the flight. The crew installs the germination CubeLabs onto a payload card and then into the TangoLab where autonomous operations occur. At the end of operations, the Crew removes, conditions and stows the hardware for cold stow return to Earth aboard the Dragon capsule in approximately 30 days. The hardware is returned on the same vehicle and turned over to the Space Tango/Principal Investigator team upon early return.

Gary Hanning, Ph.D., Anheuser-Busch InBev, Fort Collins, CO, United States, the Principal Investigator (PI) is in charge of this experiment and will follow the journey from their fields to space and back. Recommended hashtag: #SpaceBeer

Assigned To Expedition 53/54: Joe Acaba of NASA, Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and Mark Vande Hei of NASA They launched Sept. 13 on the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome for a five and a half month mission on the International Space Station.

The Hardware that will house the barely during its journey prepared and managed by Space Tango a Lexington, KY, USA company.


Leave a Reply