A discipline of botany is astrobotany which studies plants in space cultivation. It is concerned with the cultivation of plants in artificial gardens in space in a controlled, pressurized and above all weightless environment. When humans form colonies on other celestial bodies or on orbiting space bases they will need to have the ability to produce food. Then regardless of the resources that could come from Earth.


Plants should produce enough oxygen and nutrients to survive a human colony. So a carbon dioxide cycle similar to the earth one in which it is metabolized to produce oxygen should be created. The first obstacle to overcome is that of weightlessness. In fact the gravitational stimulus induces the plant to grow the foliage in the upper part the lower one. So is possible to compensate the lack of the gravitational stimulus.Then you can use the other stimuli that condition the spatial development of the plant. So it is the chemical and the light stimulus, must be exploited. It is shown that suitable stimuli of this kind can compensate for the absence of gravitational stimulus. We must take into account the particular conditions of the space environment for plants and above all microgravity, ionizing radiation and oxidative stress. 

                                                                                                                                            These particular conditions produce alterations of gene expression. So “space culture” must take into account these altered responses of plants to conditions other than terrestrial ones. The first successful space cultivation experiments to obtain the ability to produce food were those that took place on the Soviet space station Salyut 7 in  1982. Ten on the Russian space station SVET-2 in the late 90s. The experiments continued on the ISS (International Space Station). Chard, lettuce, radishes, cabbage, peas were grown.

COLTIVATION IN THE SPACE http://www.soy.com


Sunflower has also been grown since 2012. Very interesting are the studies on the spatial cultivation of algae such as that of spirulina algae which is very nutritious and rich in proteins. Astrobotanical studies are aimed at identifying which plants are most suitable for space cultivation to increase the ability to produce food. So they studied plantsto obtain the ability to ptoduce food such as rice, wheat and potatoes or vegetable crops. In fact they are rich in proteins such as soy, beans, peanuts or even sources of vitamins and fiber such as lettuce, cabbage and strawberries. Many studies have been done on the modalities of the alternation of dark light periods. Then also circadian cycles, that is, of the alternation of hours of light during the day. 

                                                                                                                                           The studies on plants within space bases concern both the production of food and the psychophysical well-being that the vision of plants can bring. In fact it is important for human communities destined to live isolated from the Earth. A possibility of building modular biospheres is being studied. In particular inside which an environment similar to the terrestrial one suitable for the cultivation of vegetables can be recreated.


The water necessary for cultivation would be transported from the Earth. Then subjected to recycling techniques or extracted frozen from the subsoil of planets or satellites in which it is present in good quantities. Such as the case of Fobos, one of the satellites of Mars. In particular on this satellite we plan to use subsoil water to put into practice a “water cycle”. Then to use the carbon extracted from the minerals of the surface to put into practice a “carbon cycle”. It is important to imitate the photoperiod ” terrestrial “using artificial LED lights inside space greenhouses.   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The study of plants in microgravity conditions allowed to evaluate plant growth patterns. Then, above all, how innate it is and how much it is determined by the environment. Genetic studies the phenotypic expression of a gene. In particular the effect of the action of a gene on the characteristics of the plant or animal. So it depends on an interaction between the genes and the environmental conditions. In particular on Earth the conditions are similar in a given  geographical area. While in space they can be very different so it will be challenging to recreate conditions similar to those on land.


As far as gravity is concerned, it will be necessary to look for a planet that has one similar to ours. The gravitational attraction is measured by the Cavendish constant indicated with G. Then multiplied by the mass of the body. So multiplied by the mass of the Earth, the result is divided by the distance of the body from the center of the Earth squared. Another solution would be to build rotating space stations with the of huge rings which, with rotation, create a centrifugal force that simulates gravity.         

                                                                                                                                              In any case, the cultivation of soybeans on a future space base or on a future colonized planet would be the best solution. Then to obtain a high ability to produce food rich in high biological value proteins. With a protein content of 34% and with an excellent variety of amino acids, soybeans could make meat superfluous. A controlled environment such as that of future space stations could also render pesticides useless which are often used in GMO and non-BIO soybeans. I always advise my readers to prefer the BIO variant and no GMO of soy. Because it is much healthier but all this could be normal in the space areas of the future. In fact organic food and no GMO will no longer be an expensive exception on the tables of future terrestrials. But it will be a absolutely normal.


Imagine the society of the future that will live in space. As highly advanced groups of individuals with a high environmental and animal rights awareness. Then they will reject any form of violence against animals considered “younger brothers” to be protected. So killing and using other animals for food reasons will certainly appear to be a crime. Therefore there will be a tendency to devise valid alternative solutions to animal products. Then allow you to have a complete and rich diet using foods of plant origin. It may seem a utopian scenario. But, if we consider the history of the evolution of civilization we should note that environmental and animal rights consciousness has grown steadily over the centuries. So sooner or later it will get to the point that animals consider real “younger brothers” with rights similar to those of men.


So today we would be horrified at the idea of ​​feeding our fellow man. Then in one day, in the future, it will happen that we will no longer accept the idea of ​​eating other animals. I believe that the first societies to consider the human-animal relationship from another point of view will be future space societies. In fact it will be innovative and projected mentality towards the future and will see the inhabitants of Earth as Nature.     

                                                                                                                                                                   My dream would be to live long enough to be able to see this ideal world in which food can be obtained bloodlessly. Maybe I will not be able to see space colonies scattered throughout the universe. In fact this will take place. But I believe, in a very distant future but, space colonies not too far from Earth inhabited by individuals capable of autonomous food products. Then do not think they are too far away therefore I wait. .. and I hope this happens as soon as possible.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        doc. Massimiliano Mangafà 

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