The idea of drinking alcohol in space has been around at least since man landed on the moon. That’s when Buzz Aldrin took communion and drank a glass of wine. NASA doesn’t really want you to know about that, more so because of a separation of church and state than because there’s anything wrong with an astronaut consuming a little vino.
But Aldrin did drink alcohol in space, which proves it can be done, and he wasn’t the only one to do so. It just isn’t recommended.
In the 1970s, in order to combat what was seen as the terrible food being served to astronauts, for a very brief time NASA allowed sherry to be consumed during Skylab missions. The reason for selecting sherry, according to “The Astronaut’s Cookbook,” was that according to “several professors at the University of California at Davis, it was decided that a Sherry would work best because any wine flown would have to be repackaged. Sherry is a very stable product, having been heated during the processing. Thus, it would be the least likely to undergo changes if it were to be repackaged.” A cream sherry was selected, repackaged, and set to be sent to space with the rest of the astronauts’ food.
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But it never made it. During a public lecture, Skylab 4 commander Gerry Carr happened to mention the inclusion of sherry in the meal packages for the next mission. The public was so enraged that astronauts would be consuming alcohol that the idea was scrapped before it ever got off the ground. Literally. Since then, NASA has had a very strict ban on alcohol in space.
The Russians, on the other hand, have historically had a looser policy, with doctors recommending the cosmonauts on the Mir space station actually drink Cognac to keep their immune systems healthy. And there actually is some scientific evidence to support this claim. A 2011 paper found that resveratrol “could be envisaged as a nutritional countermeasure for spaceflight.” Basically, it’s good for you.
Despite the Russians’ encouragement of alcohol consumption in space, the International Space Station is a dry facility. So while you can drink alcohol in space, you probably shouldn’t. No one wants astronauts in space who are too tipsy to deal with the myriad of issues that might arise. After all, despite what sci-fi movies might lead you to believe, space travel is still insanely treacherous.