STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Some other news, the crew of the International Space Station is about to get something that's considered even more precious than water - a decent cup of coffee or, to be more precise, espresso. An espresso maker blasted off yesterday into outer space, courtesy of the Italian Space Agency of course. It arrives on Friday, hopefully in time for breakfast. And we have coverage from NPR's Geoff Brumfiel.
GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: I wake up. I'm tired and then...
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Three, two, one, zero and lift off.
(SOUNDBITE OF COFFEE MAKER DRIPPING)
BRUMFIEL: Houston, we have coffee. In space, though, it's a different story. All they've got is instant. It's not bad, but right now there's an Italian astronaut on the space station. And David Avino can tell you Italians take their coffee very seriously.
DAVID AVINO: As Italian, I can say, first of all, the flavor - I like the coffee very strong. I like very much also the foam on the top.
BRUMFIEL: Avino is managing director of an aerospace company called Argotec in Torino, Italy. He wanted to help that astronaut, and Argotec is just up the road from a major Italian coffee company, Lavazza. So the two companies got together and created an espresso maker for space. It's called ISSpresso.
AVINO: ISS for the International Space Station, presso like the espresso.
BRUMFIEL: It's a box about the size of a microwave. You put in a pouch of water, add a little capsule of espresso and brew. Now, it's important to say that this is an experimental machine. Nobody's sure how all that coffee and steam will behave in zero gravity. Avino says they've had to take a lot of precautions to make sure hot espresso doesn't squirt into the cabin. Assuming it works, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will probably get the first shot, but Avino says the machine's for everyone.
AVINO: Everybody can join and can also be happy getting an espresso coffee. And this will be also a great occasion, you know, to all meet together and having a coffee altogether on the station.
BRUMFIEL: It's perfect for the astronauts, but if Vickie Kloeris, who manages the space station's food supply, is anxious because it could create a huge headache.
VICKIE KLOERIS: Each cup has an individual capsule that has to be packaged separately, so there's a lot of trash and a lot of volume involved in it.
BRUMFIEL: Getting things in and out of space is expensive, and Kloeris says NASA managers are still trying to figure out how to deal with all those finicky plastic pods.
KLOERIS: We'll see how it goes. And, you know, if it's successful, then we'll have to figure out how we're going to resupply it (laughter).
BRUMFIEL: She says NASA will have to find a way because once astronauts get a taste of espresso, ditching the machine won't be an option. Geoff Brumfiel, NPR News.
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