We’re sending sugar into space so astronauts can grow rock candy

Sweet tooth resupply.
Sweet tooth resupply.
Image: AP Photo/Bill Ingalls
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Scientists at NASA have loaded three pounds of Domino and C&H sugar onto a SpaceX Dragon rocket scheduled to launch into space tomorrow (Dec. 12) from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The package isn’t for satiating an intergalactic sweet tooth, though. The sugar—along with other cargo—will be transported to the International Space Station, where astronauts will use it in experiments. Specifically, they’ll grow crystalized rock candy with it, gathering data on how sugar responds to a zero-gravity environment.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, high-school students in science and technology programs will be conducting similar experiments, only in an underwater setting to replicate a no-gravity environment. The plan is to track the data and analyze how the sugar responds to both conditions.

The experiment is made possible by two groups, Nanoracks and DreamUp, which through a successful Kickstarter campaign raised the funds to supply students with the $25 science kits needed for the work. Nanoracks makes products and provides services for commercial space ventures; in 2009 announced it had formed a partnership with NASA that would facilitate getting small shipments to the International Space Station for experimentation. DreamUp is a space-education company that Nanoracks spun off in order to further what they call a “space for everyone” educational program, to connect students to space.

“The exploration and utilization of space is now integrated into the very fabric of our societies,” the company has said. “How to leverage more fully the resources required to improve our lives here on earth is the overarching obsession for all us here at NanoRacks.”