Spirulina as a food solution for astronaut
An astronaut eats one kilogram of food, breathes one kilogram of oxygen and drinks three liters of water. Astronauts also produce waste, mainly water. During long-term space mission, it is impossible to carry as much food and water for reasons of costs and logistics. Let’s recycle! The MELiSSA project (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) focuses on means to enable long-term space missions. Using microorganisms such as Spirulina, bioreactors transform organic and non-organic waste in water, food and oxygen. Twenty-five years ago, the Belgian Nuclear Research Center (SCK•CEN) was at the base of the MELiSSA project. The European Space Agency (ESA) is now coordinating this large and international project. SCK•CEN studies the evolution of bacteria under the influence of radiations and weightlessness. In December 2017, the SPACEX-13 rocket took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on its way to the International Space Station (ISS). On board was the very first photobioreactor containing Spirulina, developed by SCK•CEN in collaboration with ESA and the scientific consortium MELiSSA. During the UCL to Mars 2018 mission, researchers will study Spirulina in extreme conditions, at the Mars Desert Research Station. This cyanobacterium, intended to be used as a dietary supplement by astronauts, could have therapeutic properties on intestinal flora damaged by stress.