On 29 July 1985, the space shuttle Challenger blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida under the command of C. Gordon Fullerton on its eighth mission. The flight was codenamed STS-51-F or Spacelab-2, and this is because it main payload was the Spacelab-2 laboratory module.
Fullerton and his crew, however, carried another cargo, which actually received more publicity than the laboratory module. They brought with them Coca-Cola and Pepsi in especially designed cans to test possible packaging and dispensing methods of the drinks in a weightless environment. The project was officially dubbed the Carbonated Beverage Dispenser Evaluation payload.
Coca-Cola was serious about the project, actually investing US$250,000 to develop a can suitable for use in zero gravity. Pepsi, naturally, did not want to be outdone, prompting them to develop their own space can. The first can to be opened was the one from Coca-Cola, a New Coke, earning it the distinction of being the first soft drink consumed in space.
Unfortunately, Commander Gordon and his crew classified the experiment as a failure. Owing to the lack of refrigeration, both the New Coke and Pepsi were warm. This also made them very fizzy. The liquid and its carbonation were also separated because of the lack of gravity.
Coca-Cola, however, did not give up. In 26 August 1991, it worked with the Soviet space agency NPO Energia. It provided Coca-Cola space cans to the crew of the space station Mir.
A more successful experiment with NASA was the Fluids Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus-1 (FGBA-1), a Coca-Cola dispenser that contained 1.65 liters each of Coke and Diet Coke. This addressed the earlier problem of the separation of carbonation from the liquid, and it provided a mechanism for cooling the drink. The machine went on board the Discovery on its STS-63 flight in 3 February 1995 which was commanded by James Wetherbee.
The FGBA-1 was further developed into the FGBA-2. The newer machine was designed to store water, carbon dioxide, and flavored syrups separately. On demand, the machine was supposed to mix the required ingredients. In addition to ingredients for Coke and Diet Coke, it also contained those of Powerade sports drink.
The machine flew in the STS-77 mission of the Endeavour which took off from the Kennedy Space Center in 19 May 1996. Unlike with its older sibling, however, the FGBA-2 experiment did not pan out.