ArabiaWeather - Over the decades, man has discovered many things that contribute to improving the quality of his life and ensuring his continuity on planet Earth. Among these discoveries and research are those related to space and outer space exploration. With the increasing interest in space and space missions, scientists and engineers must devise a solution. To provide food for astronauts during their long journeys.
Plants are one potential solution to meet the needs of astronauts in space. However, plants face significant challenges in the space environment including lack of gravity, lack of light, and lack of water-based nutrition. Therefore, research needs to focus on developing specific types of plants that can thrive under these extreme conditions.
Astronauts need to eat as much as they need to breathe, which makes having a sustainable source of food vital during their long missions, but when it comes to selecting the right plants to grow in space, the challenges lie in many factors such as lack of gravity, light and water-based nutrition. .
A team of researchers has discovered a small plant known as “water meal,” which is the smallest flowering plant on Earth. It seems to be the ideal choice for cultivation during long space missions, as it is distinguished by its ability to survive in the harsh environments of space, and is a rich source of oxygen and protein. This characteristic makes it an ideal choice for providing astronauts with food and fresh air at the same time.
If "water meal" is successfully developed and grown in space, it will play a major role in enhancing the sustainability and effectiveness of future space missions, as it can be transformed into beneficial nutritional meals and nutritional supplements that efficiently meet the needs of astronauts.
The "water meal" plant is less than one millimeter long, and it is an aquatic plant that floats on the surface of the water in various regions of Asia, including Thailand. This small plant was experimented with by a research team at Mahidol University to evaluate its tolerance to difficult conditions. Especially regarding the challenges posed by gravity.
Regarding the research on the “water meal,” the lead researcher, Tatpong Tuliyananda, confirms:
"Because the aquatic meal does not contain any roots, stems or leaves, it is essentially spherical, floating on the surface of the water. This means we can focus more directly on how changes in gravity affect its growth and development."
If the ability to adapt to harsh conditions is proven, "water meal" could play an essential role as a food source for future astronauts as it provides large amounts of oxygen through the process of photosynthesis, and carries a high nutritional value as it is rich in protein, and can usually be included in foods. Like soups and salads on the floor.
To experiment with the effects in a zero-gravity environment, the team decided to use clinos , a spin-based device to slow down the effects of the force of gravity; Thus creating a simulated zero-gravity environment, and indeed, the initial results were promising, as the “water meal” appeared to grow quickly and thrive under these light conditions when the weight reached one microgram.
However, the team did not stop at that, they also wanted to test the efficiency of the “water meal” powder in strong gravity conditions. For this purpose, they transferred their samples to the European Space Agency’s large-diameter centrifuge, the agency’s press release states.
A centrifuge was used to isolate the 'hydropometarium' plants until they weighed 20 g , and were then left to grow under artificial sunlight; Since the growth of this plant takes a short period, as it grows and completes its life cycle in only 5 to 10 days , the researchers obtained data on several generations of this plant after a short period of experiments.
The leader of the research team said that the plant was examined directly, then its extracts were converted into solid granules for study, and the samples will be subjected to detailed chemical analysis to explore how the “water meal” responds to excessive gravity.
The team is very optimistic about the suitability of using “water meal” in future space missions, as 100% of the plant can be consumed when eaten, making it ideal for cultivation in the space environment.
“Aqua meal” and similar plants could play an important role in providing food for future astronauts, and scientists and engineers must continue research and development to achieve this goal and make spaceflight more efficient and sustainable.
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