French Wine, Grape Plants Return to Earth after Months in Space

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. snippet / ˈsnɪp ɪt / (n) – a small piece or part of something

    I keep snippets of travel articles in my diary.

  2. enclose / ɛnˈkloʊz / (v) – to surround and close off on all sides

    A thick brick wall enclosed the secret garden.

  3. uncork / ʌnˈkɔrk / (v) – to open a bottle by pulling out the cork

    At the wedding I attended last weekend, the newlyweds uncorked a bottle of wine together.

  4. connoisseur / ˌkɒn əˈsɜr / (n) – a person who knows a lot about a particular field or subject

    They invited some dessert connoisseurs to be judges for the baking contest.

  5. endure / ɛnˈdʊər / (v) – to survive or bear something

    Camels can endure the heat of the desert because their bodies store large amounts of water.


Read the text below.

A dozen bottles of French wine and 320 grapevine snippets arrived in the Gulf of Mexico after months of orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The bottles were first launched aboard a supply ship in November 2019 and spent 438 days in outer space. Each bottle was carefully enclosed inside a steel cylinder and remained corked while on board the ISS. The grapevine snippets were launched in March 2020 by SpaceX and spent 312 days on the ISS.

To return to Earth, the bottles and plants were loaded into a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule, which also carried other research materials and equipment such as mice and 3D-engineered heart tissues.

The bottles will be uncorked at the end of February at a wine tasting event for experts and connoisseurs. The wine will then go through chemical testing to see how it was altered by the outer space environment.

Luxemburg-based startup Space Cargo Unlimited initiated the Mission WISE experiments. According to CEO Nicolas Gaume, the company sent the wine and grapevines to outer space to conduct agricultural science experiments. Gaume and his team wanted to find a way for humans to do safe, sustainable organic agriculture in the future. The group believes that the conditions in outer space such as weightlessness might help them come up with answers.

The company hopes that by conducting these experiments and exposing plants to harsh conditions in outer space, their research team will be able to develop stronger and healthier plants that can endure the effects of climate change on Earth.

Gaume also believes that the study will be useful for future space explorers who might want to enjoy wine, one of Earth’s pleasures, even while on Mars or the Moon.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think exposing plants to outer space is a good idea? Why or why not?
• Do you think scientists should continue their experiments with plants in outer space? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Do you think food grown in space is safe to eat? Why or why not?
• If you were to go on a space mission, what food and drink would you like to take with you? Discuss.