Which spirits for space tourism ? A look back at Remy Martin's Remy Space cognac experience.
I) Space tourism: an overview of the projects under way.
While the aeronautics world is betting on a return to normalcy in 2023, there is an effervescence on the space tourism side where not a day goes by without a new company entering the race to the stars.
On the one hand, we have the historical government agencies that are regaining strength with scientific exploration programs and in its wake, private companies that are betting on a still embryonic space tourism.
Thus, the deadline for the first commercial flights is approaching fast and we can distinguish two types of projects: suborbital flights, which are similar to jumping from one to another below 100 km of altitude, and orbital flights above 100 km of altitude.
The question is whether this new tourist industry is an opportunity for the wine and spirits world?
In the first category, the most accessible project remains that of the French company Zephalton which proposes a flight in a balloon up to 25km of altitude from 2024. Enough to contemplate the curvature of the earth and observe the darkness of space in a relative stability, why not around a glass of champagne. However the American army considers that one really reaches space starting from 80km.
For their part, Virgin Galactic (Richard Branson) and Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos) are neck and neck to offer real suborbital flights and it is planned for this year, in 2021!
Richard Branson has already put his tickets on sale and 600 people have so far bought their precious sesame for $250,000 each (there are also 8,000 registered). The concept is original with a carrier plane dropping a rocket plane at altitude which accelerates to reach space at 80km. Once the engine is shut down, the 6 passengers will feel weightlessness for 5 minutes, then the aircraft will glide back down to the Virgin Galactic base in New Mexico where 5 shuttles are waiting to be rotated.
Its direct competitor is the boss of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, who has taken the gamble of the reusable rocket with Blue Origin. The latter takes the New Shepard capsule and 6 passengers to about 100km. Again, count $200,000 per ticket.
As far as we are concerned, we can see that it will be difficult to enjoy the trip while savouring a cosmo or a white Russian. It's difficult in these conditions (acceleration, weightlessness for a few minutes and then re-entry into the atmosphere while hovering) to order a mojito from the bartender...
Are we condemned to drink water through a straw? It's hard to swallow when we are sold an 'overview effect' of the earth!
II) Orbital flights and the prohibition of alcohol by NASA: can we consume alcohol in space?
Fortunately, on paper, orbital flights that involve circling the Earth at least once seem to lend themselves more to drinking spirits while admiring the Earth and the stars.
Elon Musk's Space X company is proposing to send the Blue Dragon space capsule on a recoverable rocket with 4 people on board for a modest $35 million a ticket. And this, for 5 days at 400 km of altitude. Which leaves more room for daydreaming and sharing a bottle? Not really, if we consider that the 4 astronauts are not professionals but space tourists having followed a short training and in charge of the mission which will be partly automated...
Note that a flyby of the moon is planned for 2024 by Space X but the reservation of the 8 available tickets ended this March 14, 2021.
It is therefore the space hotel projects that seem best suited to the consumption of spirits in space. First of all, the Axiom Space project is composed of modules to be assembled and which will form a full-fledged station in 2028, able to accommodate up to 16 people. In the meantime, the first module, designed by Phillipe Stark, will be docked to the ISS in October 2021.
It costs $55 million for the trip and €35,000 to use the ISS's electricity and hot water.
But don't think you'll be able to get your hands on the mini-bar of the international station at this price, there isn't any, and for good reason: alcohol has been banned by NASA since the fateful day of 10 August 1972. Chef Charles Bourland had planned to add red wine to the astronauts' menu on the Skylab station, which was to be launched in 1973, but 'puritanism' prevailing in the high places of the American agency has signed the death warrant for any ethylic comfort in orbit.
So no spirits on Axiom until 2028, that is, as long as it is docked to the ISS!
Or one must ally with the Russians who were not so careful at the time of the MIR station (1986-1999). It is known that bottles of vodka and 'Russian cognac' were stashed in the corners of the ship. Soviet doctors recommended 'cognac' to stimulate the immune system and invigorate a body numb from months of weightlessness.
But the biggest project remains that of Tim Alatorre with The Gateaway Foundation which proposes a space hotel in the shape of a big wheel of 190m in diameter and composed of 24 modules benefiting from an artificial gravity (because of the movement of the station on itself). This means a total capacity of nearly 400 people.
This concept is the one that comes closest to a cruise with its private cabins and bar-restaurant offering an unparalleled view of the Earth. The launch is scheduled for 2027.
So the future of spirits in space seems limited in the medium term, which does not prevent us from thinking about how they could be consumed. Because it is not so easy to suck a bubble of cognac in weightlessness !
III) Alcohol consumption in weightlessness and packaging innovations: a review of the Remy Space experience.
In June 2001 Rémy Martin unveiled the Remy Space at the Paris Air Show and at Vinexpo, a "concept product" which, like the concept cars of the automobile industry, allowed the company to test its capacity for innovation. This is because at the end of the crisis that the cognac industry went through at the end of the 1990s, the Centaur brand explored different avenues with the Remy Silver, the Remy Red and the Remy Space respectively, the latter benefiting from technology transfers from European space research.
Rémy Space is a cognac to be tasted in space with a straw, created by Frédéric Loeb of the Agency & Loeb in cooperation with the ESA (European Space Agency), the Remy Martin teams and the graphic agency Cent Degrés. The aim is to create a product that can withstand the rigours of space travel. The idea is to have a pressure-resistant PVC bottle (no question of sending glass bottles on board a rocket), wrapped in an isothermal cover that protects it from radiation and houses a straw. An anti-leak valve allows the cognac to be consumed in a gravity-free environment.
3,000 numbered copies were produced and are now the delight of collectors. Each Remy Space is composed of two 100ml bottles, fitted with two watertight aluminium stoppers and adapted to consumption in the presence of artificial gravity, for example, and allowing the iced cognac to be kept longer.
Rémy Martin communicates about the product as a real concentrate of aromas, it is a fluid and smooth cognac, particularly adapted to be drunk chilled on earth or in space. And this is important if we consider that the perception of flavours is amplified in weightlessness.
Indeed, due to the zero gravity, the sips of cognac immediately fill the mouth, magnifying the taste sensations.
But Remy Martin didn't stop there and there is also a very rare space picnic set.
It includes a bag of mini dry sausages with Guérande salt called 'Space Tapas' and for the sweeter palates, a bag of 'Jupiter's Secret', almond biscuits with semi-confit grapes. Another curiosity is a tube with the label 'Black Hole': these are Lindt chocolate bites with Rémy Martin cognac!
Enough to attract the Gueuleton.fr team for a little trip into space? Not sure...
But to accompany your meal, you have the choice between a Space Vittel and a series of 4 glasses of cognac with different lids. And this is where it gets really cool.
Our batch of cognacs includes Remy Space, Remy Martin VSOP, Remy Martin XO Special and Remy Silver (made of cognac and vodka, produced between 1999 and 2009)
Since the release of the boxed set in 2000 and the Remy Space in 2001, progress in terms of packaging and materials now allows us to offer funky alternatives.
It remains to be seen how Rémy Martin and the other cognac and spirits houses in the Spirits Valley will position themselves when the space tourism market really takes off ?
"The path to the CEO's office should not be through the CFO's office, nor should it be through the marketing department. That path is necessarily through engineering and design. ”
Thanks to the agency Distillateur Graphik for its help in writing the article www.distillateurgraphik.com
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BONUS: a little reading