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The first espresso machine to go into orbit is now fully armed and operational aboard the International Space Station — and in honor of the event, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti sent down a selfie that shows her sipping on a brew while sporting her "Star Trek" uniform.
Cristoforetti's sip marks the debut for drinks produced by the ISSpresso machine, which was flown up to the station on a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule last month. The machine had been due to arrive in January, but last October's failure of an Orbital Sciences resupply launch caused a backlog in shipments. As it is, Cristoforetti has only a week or so to sample space espresso before she returns to Earth.
The selfie from the space station's Cupola observation deck shows off the latest version of a zero-G cup that's been under development for several years. It takes advantage of surface tension to let astronauts sip their drinks without having the liquid float away. A video about the taste test, however, shows Cristoforetti flashing a thumbs-up after having her coffee the old-fashioned way: from a pouch, through a straw.
The ISSpresso machine makes espresso coffee (and other hot drinks) from pre-packaged pods — after all, who wants to have ground-up coffee dust wafting through the space station? It's a project from Italy's Argotec engineering firm and Lavazza coffee company, organized in cooperation with the Italian Space Agency.
In a news release and a series of tweets, Argotec confirmed that Cristoforetti was "not only the first Italian woman in space, but also the first astronaut in history to drink an authentic Italian espresso coffee in orbit."
Roberto Battiston, the head of the Italian Space Agency, called the coffeemaker a "work of high engineering" in a report from Italy's ANSI news agency. He said the experiment will produce "not only immediate psychological benefits for the astronauts, but significant positive returns to Earth and technological advantages for future space missions."