A SpaceX cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station early Friday with a payload of food and supplies -- including the station's first Italian espresso machine.
The spaceworthy espresso maker, built by Italian coffee company Lavazza and Italian aerospace firm Argotec, is a bit like a Keurig machine: It heats up water, puts the water through a capsule containing the beverage's other key ingredients and spits out the drink. With different capsules, astronauts will be able to use the machine to make other kinds of beverages, such as tea and broth.
Astronauts have long had coffee in space, but they've been drinking it through straws out of pouches that resemble Capri Sun containers, NASA spokesman Dan Huot told the Los Angeles Times. One big change is that, along with the espresso maker, the astronauts will also receive zero-gravity coffee cups, he said.
If they squirt their pouches of espresso into the cups, they will get another dimension of the coffee experience: They'll be able to smell it while drinking, Huot said. During long space missions, he said, "something as simple as being able to smell your morning coffee can go a long way."
The specialized cup "uses things like surface tension to mimic the effects of gravity," Huot said.
The shape, pioneered by fluid dynamics expert Mark Weislogel and astronaut Don Pettit, includes a sharp corner and makes the liquid inside move toward people's mouths when they drink from it "instead of just floating in there in a big blob," Huot said.
Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has been looking forward to the new coffeemaker's arrival since before she even got to the space station. "How cool is that?" she tweeted from Earth last June. "I'll get to operate the first space espresso machine!"
But it won't be the first thing unloaded from the cargo ship, Huot cautioned. "There's a lot of science on board that's going to take priority."