Oct 5, 2022 - News

Crested Butte-based First Ascent coffee goes to space with NASA

Illustration of the Milky Way in a coffee cup.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

First Ascent — a handcrafted instant coffee company based in Crested Butte — is living up to its slogan of serving "coffee to fuel people off the grid."

What's happening: Nearly 260 eight-ounce servings of the award-winning quick brew are set to head to space Wednesday — roughly 260 miles off the grid — on NASA's SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station.

  • The Colorado company was selected for the cargo list thanks to recommendations from an astronaut who tried the brand on a backpacking trip, Matador Network reports.

Flashback: First Ascent, founded in 2018, gained popularity in the backpacking world after Outside Magazine named its Ethiopian instant coffee one of the best in the business in May 2019.

  • "A few of the brands we tried were just too weak to count as fuel for all-day adventuring, but not this one," the magazine noted. "It will get you moving, even if coyote howls kept you up all night."

How it works: Much differently than sipping coffee on Earth because of a lack of gravity.

  • First Ascent provides the grounds, and NASA's Food System Lab repackages them in a foil pouch with a valve.
  • Astronauts attach the valve to a hot water dispenser that mixes the grounds, then stick a straw in to slurp the coffee.

What they're saying: "I like the idea that there's an astronaut up there drinking our coffee who's super psyched before they start a day of doing whatever astronauts do on a space station," First Ascent founder and co-owner Mark Drucker told 5280.

  • "We all imagine going to space and wondering what that would be like. … Now in our own way, we get to," added company owner Sam Higby.
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