A coffee machine that will actually work in space

Houston, we have a problem.

Houston, we have a problem. One simply cannot expect an Italian to enter the final frontier without an espresso machine. We might not be able to hear her scream - it being space and all that - but we can certainly feel her pain.

Samantha Cristoforetti is fluent in Italian, English, French, German, and Russian. She is an engineer, a captain in the Italian Air Force (and therefore a pilot), and she is not only an astronaut but she was also the first Italian woman in space. Virtual high five, Samantha.

Lavazza (the coffee people), Argotec (nobody has - they're an engineering company) and the Italian Space Agency (NASA, with better food) all think Cristoforetti is pretty cool, too. They've been busy building her a coffee machine that will actually work in space.

Since we took that giant leap for mankind, we've put everything we can think of in a rocket: dogs, monkeys, and even women. But is a coffee machine perhaps a tad pointless?

Obviously there's always room for coffee-making apparatus in one's life, but we just can't help thinking that the engineering company and the space agency could find a more productive use of their time. Their first attempt to deliver Samantha's machine was unsuccessful, because the supply rocket exploded. Case in point.

A regular espresso machine for us earth-dwelling underlings uses nine bars of pressure. A fancy espresso machine for alien-hunters will use 400 bars. A regular machine pours espresso into a cup, mug, or other suitable vessel. A machine aboard the Starship Enterprise will pour espresso into a pouch, not too dissimilar to a saline bag. Cristoforetti will then sip her morning macchiato through a straw. Very grown-up.

Alongside an American and a Russian, Cristoforetti has been at the International Space Station (ISS) since November last year. They, umm...flew? Do you call it flying? Not really sure. Their, umm...ship? Is it called a ship? Really don't know. They've been in Deep Space Nine since they "flew" their "ship" there and it (the ship) has been serving as an emergency escape vehicle until it (still the ship) will be used to return the astronaut, the cosmonaut, and the straw-sucker to Earth this month. Yes, that's as in .. soon.

She's been there for five months already but she simply must have an espresso before her return next week. Again, perhaps this is all a tad pointless?

Just as ET had a debilitating urge to phone home all the time, and Sigourney Weaver and her gang just had to investigate that pesky SOS call, so it seems that when it comes to close encounters of the third kind, we all tend to spoil it. Therefore, it's comforting to know that - however awkward that initial meeting might be - they can all at least have a coffee.

Polyglot or not, Cristoforetti doesn't appear to have any alien lingo in her repertoire, so breaking the ice will be tough but the straw thing will help.

The most impressive aspect of the Battlestar Galactica coffee machine is its name. The espresso machine for use aboard the ISS is ingeniously called ISSpresso. Not only is that semantically clever, but it's also fun to say, because you can't help sounding like the snake from The Jungle Book.

Apart from the marketing department's triumph, the only other feature with which we are not so much impressed as intrigued by is the saline bag function. We're really not into the espresso-through-a-straw thing, but if the coffee is already in a pouch, we must be getting closer to the realisation of our coffee-via-an-intravenous-drip dream.

In the meantime, here's to the first female Italian in space enjoying the first ISSpresso. Wouldn't George Clooney be disappointed if he made his way back to the ISS after all that depressing floating around (Gravity is the name of the movie, if you haven't seen it, that's pretty much all you're missing) only to find that the much-hyped coffee machine isn't a Nespresso.

Anyway, here's to you, Cristoforetti - live long and prosper!