Coca vs. Pepsi: the day the dispute came to space

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Coca-Cola was invented in 1886, while Pepsi arrived in 1898. Since then, the two soft drinks have been waging a commercial war that has reached space. The feat took place in 1985 and marked what became known as the “Space War of Glues”.

Coca-Cola’s initiative was to send the soda to space. The company contacted NASA to develop a can to travel with the Challenger space shuttle. In the microgravity environment of Earth’s orbit, a mechanism is needed that pushes the liquid out just when the astronaut wants – otherwise, a mess could happen inside the aircraft.

The can was adapted to contain a plastic bag laminated with the drink and a bladder pressurized with carbon dioxide, which served to propel the soda to the mouth. A metal valve has also been included to prevent liquid leakage.

The creation of cans

When Pepsi heard about Coca-Cola’s plans, it begged NASA to participate in the same mission. The space agency saw no problem with that, as long as the company developed a can in time for launch.

While Coca invested around US $ 250,000 in the device, its rival took on an ongoing project, budgeted at US $ 14 million, to adapt a new can – the difference was that carbon dioxide would not be pre-pressurized, being produced by chemical elements inside the container.

Still, because it was done in a hurry, the Pepsi project seemed to have a worse finish. The can looked more like a whipped cream dispenser and had less technology than Coca, which had more time to prepare.

Official mission, but with little credit

NASA took the body out in the war, without giving commercial value to the experiment. The mission was entitled “Evaluation of carbonated beverage containers” and should only be carried out when astronauts have a little time left. The main assignment of the team would be the study of solar, atmospheric and astrophysical physics.

Because of this, some of the crew members did not enjoy the incubation of testing two commercial symbols in space. “I thought it was frivolous and disparaging about mission science,” analyzed astronaut John-David Bartoe, 35 years later. He was the Challenger payload specialist and refused to be part of the experiment. “In retrospect, that was stupid of me,” he concluded.

In order to avoid comparisons of beverages for commercial purposes, astronauts decided to evaluate only the device created by companies to drink in space. Four cans of each brand were sent for on-board appreciation.

Few conclusions

The results showed that the cans worked as promised. Still, it was impossible not to comment on the feeling of drinking cola in space. The first change concerns the temperature: they boarded the Challenger icy, but lost their cooling before being eaten.

“The problem was with carbonated drinks. When you open a bottle on Earth, the bubbles rise and go. If there is no gravity, the bubbles will not rise, ”explained astronaut Tony England, who was also on board. According to him, the gases accumulated in the stomach produced “wet burps”.

Coca-Cola still returned to space 3 more times, between 1991 and 1996, with new devices. Pepsi only sent a giant inflatable can in 1996 to record a commercial inside the Russian space station Mir.


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