Daily Archives: April 30, 2015

But Will the Machine Misspell Your Name on the Cup?

Remember a couple weeks ago when I wondered how the ISSpresso — that fancy orbital coffee-maker recently delivered to the space station — actually worked? And how it avoids the danger of steam clouds drifting around inside the enclosed environment of the ISS? Well, when you have a question, the Internet provides an answer! From a year-old Space.com article I dug up:

Those requirements included finding a way to keep the hot water inside the machine after the espresso is finished. While water residue is normal in Earth-bound espresso machines, the prospect of boiling-hot bubbles seeping from the device in microgravity forced Argotec [the manufacturer] to seek a solution.


… in general terms, a small container in the machine collects the water. Also, stainless steel has replaced the usual plastic tubing inside the device, making it more resistant of pressure…

The machine itself resembles a microwave oven — it’s just a box — and works something like those coffee “pod” machines that brew a single serving at a time. Again quote Space.com, the process works like this:

Astronauts can operate the device with only the push of a button. An astronaut will take a pouch of water from the station’s room-temperature potable system, about 8.4 ounces’ (250 milliliters) worth. Those who like sweet coffee can add a dash of sugar to the mix.


Next, crew members will select how much coffee they want, insert a capsule in the top of the machine and press “brew.” It takes the device 60 seconds to heat the water to 167 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Celsius), then 40 seconds to dispense the espresso.


The coffee will spew out into a pouch, ready for the astronaut to drink. And if there’s a lineup, the company says the machine can easily make a second serving in the same time, about 40 seconds.

The machine can also be used to make tea, consomme, and other hot beverages, and supposedly the machine has some scientific value — NASA has mentioned studying fluid dynamics in zero-g and how things learned from the ISSpresso may lead to improvements with similar machines back here on Earth — but come on, we all know what it’s all about: the astronauts feeling cozy as they relax inside that observation cupola…

Speaking of the cupola, you may have seen this widely circulated photo of astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti wearing a Star Trek uniform, with the arriving Dragon spacecraft visible in the windows behind her:

ISS_astronaut-cristoferetti_star-trek-uniformIt’s a cool photo, and the fact that a real-life astronaut is wearing a Trek uniform has no doubt generated a lot of grins from nerds and civilians alike… but the really amusing thing (to this nerd) is that she’s not wearing just any old Trek uniform. She’s dressed as Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager, the fourth television series of the franchise. And one of Janeway’s little character quirks was a hopeless addiction to coffee… black. Cristoforetti is Italian and has reportedly been eager to try out the ISSspresso machine. Life reflects fiction and vice versa, in an infinite regression…

Finally, if you’re not completely bored with the subject (I’m not), here’s an infographic that details the workings of the ISSpresso:


After all this build-up, I hope the silly thing works…


How Do You Feel?

I do a lot of fretting/grumbling/navel-gazing here — well, everywhere, really — about getting older, feeling older, fearing I’ve lost touch with popular culture, being past my prime… hey, you’ve read the posts. But something occurred to me this morning:

In recent years, I’ve lost a lot of the weight I unwisely stacked on in my thirties.

Thanks to my LASIK surgery two weeks ago, I have my original, un-bespectacled face back.

In the next few months, we’ll be seeing a new Mad Max film, a new Jurassic Park film, a new Terminator, another Mission: Impossible, and, lest we forget, a new Star Wars episode.

And of course next year’s presidential election will likely be between a Clinton and a Bush.

You see where I’m going with this?

It’s like I’m young again!

Either that, or suffering a massive case of deja vu.