What Was The First Soft Drink in Space: The Complete History

Have you ever wondered what astronauts drink in space?

From the early days of space travel, sending soda into orbit has been an interesting experiment.

Read on to learn the fascinating history of how soft drinks have made it to the final frontier.

The Beginning of Soft Drinks in Space: Early Experiments Sending Soda to Orbit

Why Astronauts Go To Space
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In the early days of human spaceflight in the 1960s, NASA conducted simple experiments sending soda to space. Carbonated beverages like Coca-Cola and Pepsi were some of the first drinks astronauts tried drinking in zero gravity. These initial tests helped NASA understand how liquids behave differently in microgravity and paved the way for improved space beverage systems.

Coca-Cola’s Partnership With NASA to Develop a Space-Worthy Soda Can

special coke cans
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In the 1980s, Coca-Cola partnered with NASA to design a can that could dispense soda in microgravity. This was a technical challenge, as traditional soda cans require gravity to function properly. After extensive testing, the companies developed a can with a special valve and other features that allowed astronauts to drink Coke in space without it foaming out of control. The modified cans were first tested on shuttle missions in the mid-1980s. The partnership produced an innovative can design and provided a fun treat for astronauts during long missions.

The Launch of Sts-51-F and the First Coke in Space Aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger

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On July 29, 1985, the Space Shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-51-F, carrying a crew of seven astronauts. Among the cargo onboard was a specially designed canister, developed by Coca-Cola and NASA, containing Coke and other beverage samples. Once in orbit, the crew enjoyed sipping Coke through straws, marking the first time a carbonated soft drink had been consumed in space.

The specially designed cans worked as intended, delivering fizzy refreshment without the mess of uncontrolled foaming. Both the astronauts and executives at Coca-Cola considered it a successful demonstration of innovative technology and a small moment of fun during the mission’s intensive science experiments.

Expanding Carbonated Options: Pepsi and Other Brands Join Coca-Cola in Space

space themed coke
Photo By Coca-Cola

While Coca-Cola enjoyed the prestige of being the first soft drink in space, it didn’t take long for the competition to follow. In January 1986, Pepsi sent a specially designed “space can” on shuttle mission STS-61-C. Astronauts tested the can’s improved anti-foaming mechanisms by injecting more carbon dioxide and shaking the can vigorously. The Pepsi test was a success, proving the can could contain the beverage under extreme conditions.

Since then, other soda brands have joined the space race, including Dr Pepper, 7Up, and Mirinda orange soda. With cargo space at a premium, sodas in space remain an occasional treat rather than a daily staple. But they provide welcomed refreshments and reminders of home for astronauts during long missions. The novelty of drinking a familiar soda in the incredible environment of space has cemented soft drinks as an enduring part of space food history.

New Challenges: Adapting Soda Cans and Consumption for the International Space Station

the soda cans sent to space
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When the International Space Station began operations in the late 1990s, enjoying sodas in space became more complex. The carbonated beverages needed to be specially packaged in bags to prevent gas leaks in the station’s microgravity environment. Drinking from a bag proved challenging as well. Astronauts used straws at first but found it difficult to keep the liquid contained.

Special cans with special valves were designed to resolve these issues. However, the novelty of drinking soda in space had to be balanced against cargo space limitations. With crews continuously on board the ISS, there was little room for non-essential treats. Sodas are still occasionally allowed, but consuming them in microgravity requires innovative adaptations to enjoy these carbonated classics off the planet.

The Importance of Soft Drinks for Astronaut Morale and Enjoyment

astronauts drinking soda
Photo By Coca-Cola

While soda may seem like a frivolous luxury in space, it serves an important psychological purpose. The monotony and isolation of living on a space station can be mentally taxing. Providing familiar comforts from home, like a Coke or Sprite, boosts morale and gives astronauts something to look forward to.

The normalcy of drinking a soda offers a sense of connection to Earth. Sharing a carbonated beverage with crewmates helps strengthen social bonds. Though cargo space is limited, allowing an occasional soft drink reminds astronauts that their enjoyment and well-being remain a priority. This helps them maintain motivation and stay focused on their mission. Even in space, sometimes it’s the little things that matter most.

Future Innovations to Improve the Quality and Experience of Soft Drinks in Space

soda in space
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While soft drinks have come a long way since the first Coke was sipped in space, there are still opportunities to enhance the experience. Scientists are exploring creative packaging solutions like bags with straws to allow astronauts to drink freely without worrying about carbonation issues in microgravity. There is also research into making soda fountains viable on spacecraft, potentially customizing flavor mixes for crew members.

To more closely replicate the feel of drinking on Earth, scientists are prototyping cups and bottles with special valves and internal bladders to reintroduce the sensation of pressure and carbonation bubbles. Beyond hardware, there are even efforts to develop new flavors suited to the unique tastes and smells experienced in space. The future of soft drinks promises more variety, greater convenience, and an even more uplifting experience for astronauts on long-duration missions.


Was Coke or Pepsi First in Space?

Coke was the first soft drink in space, beating Pepsi. Coca-Cola specially designed a dispenser and cans to work in zero gravity for the 1981 Space Shuttle STS-1 mission.

Why Was Coke the First Soft Drink in Space?

Coca-Cola worked with NASA to create a specially designed dispenser and cans that could function in zero gravity, allowing astronauts to enjoy Coke in space. Coke saw it as an opportunity for publicity and beat Pepsi to become the first soft drink in space.

Can Astronauts Drink Soda in Space?

Yes, astronauts can drink soda in space. Special cans and dispensers allow astronauts to drink Coke and other sodas in the microgravity environment of space. The cans have special straws and valves for drinking in zero-g.

Who Drank Coke in Space?

The first people to drink Coca-Cola in space were astronauts on the Space Shuttle STS-1 mission in 1981, including commander John Young. Since then, many other astronauts have enjoyed Coke and other sodas while on missions in Earth orbit and aboard the International Space Station.


Coca-Cola was the first soft drink in space, beating rival Pepsi aboard the 1981 Space Shuttle mission STS-1. Coke worked with NASA to specially design cans and dispensers that could function in the microgravity environment, allowing astronauts like John Young to enjoy drinking Coke in space. Since then, astronauts have regularly consumed soda on spaceflights and aboard the International Space Station. What was the first soft drink in space? It was Coca-Cola.

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