SpaceX Launch To Carry Beer, Fire And Mighty Mice To ISS

Scientists have priorities — they study what they believe to be most important, and most likely to have an immediate, lasting impact on humanity. Which is why a SpaceX rocket set to launch Wednesday, Dec. 4 is carrying experiments on beer brewing, mouse muscle decay, and "fire behavior" to the International Space Station. 

Each experiment begs its own set of questions? Will the fire be placed in time out if it misbehaves? Can a mouse bench press a motorcycle? Are astronauts playing zero gravity beer pong? The short answer to all of the above — no.

Fire and mice

But unless you live in some sort of back of math class daydream fantasy land, the truth is more interesting. The fire experiments will be used to test the behavior of flames in microgravity, which of course means starting fires in space. Any movie will tell you that idea doesn't sound too hot, but it's all part of learning how to deal with fire when an astronaut's burrito spends a bit too long in the microwave. It's uncharted territory, but what we do know so far is that flames in space stay "blobby and spherical," much like the body of the average American. As above, so below. 

On the mousey front, SpaceX's Dragon capsule will carry two sets — one set is genetically engineered to lack "myostatin," a protein that inhibits muscle cell growth and therefore causes the animals to be extremely muscular," per, while the other set will be injected with an experimental drug upon arrival that will block myostatin production. The test results will help researchers combat bone and muscle loss both in space and here on Earth. 

Last up is the beer experiment, which is the fourth courtesy of Budweiser — yes, the same one you'll find at the Daytona 500 and every gas station from here to the end of the galaxy. Why, you ask? The purpose is to examine the barley malting process in microgravity, which could affect how we produce food both on Earth and in space. "For the love of beer," was too easy an answer.