Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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June 28, 2014

Cosmic caffeine: Astronauts getting espresso maker

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Talk about a cosmic caffeine jolt. The International Space Station is getting a real Italian espresso machine.

Astronauts of all nationalities — but especially the Italians — have long grumbled about the tepid instant coffee served in pouches and drunk with straws 260 miles above Earth. The pouches and straws aren't going away, but at least the brew will pack some zero-gravity punch.

The specially-designed-for-space espresso machine is dubbed ISSpresso — ISS for International Space Station.

Its launch early next year from Wallops Island, Virginia, is timed to coincide with the six-month mission of Italy's first female astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti. The 37-year-old fighter pilot and Italian Air Force captain will fly to the space station in November aboard a Russian capsule.

She'll be the first out-of-this-world barista.

"How cool is that?" she said in a tweet earlier this month. "I'll get to operate the first space espresso machine!"

Italy's century-old coffee maestro Lavazza teamed up with a Turin-based engineering company, Argotec, and the Italian Space Agency to improve coffee conditions aboard the orbiting outpost.

Besides espresso, ISSpresso is capable of whipping up tea and consommé.

What more could an astronaut want?

During his 5½-month stay on the space station last year, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano repeatedly talked about missing espresso. (This is the cool-as-ice test pilot who nearly drowned during a spacewalk last July when his helmet filled with water from his suit's cooling system.)

Argotec already was working on a space espresso machine. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Virginia will make the delivery on its Cygnus cargo ship; the launch is targeted for January.

NASA's coffee-loving astronaut Donald Pettit actually offered some ideas for ISSpresso during its design phase. He's a two-time space station resident who invented and even patented a zero-gravity cup for sipping his orbital joe versus sucking it with a straw.

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