Why Space? The opportunity for Health and Life Science Innovation: Microalgae biotechnology for space applications.

Matthew P Davey, Alison Smith, Payam Mehrshahi, Ellen Harrison, Felice Mastroleo, Natalie Leys

Research output: Other contribution

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Abstract

Microalgae are photosynthetic microorganisms that have the potential to provide a large number of human life support functions during space flights and on lunar or Martian bases. They would provide health benefits in terms of vitamin, antioxidant and other micronutrient supply as well as crucial functions such as waste regeneration through carbon sequestration, oxygen evolution and food
production. In addition, they could provide organic material for artificial soils should the lunar and Martian substrate be used as a mineral basis for growing plants (i.e. in situ resource utilisation).
Experiments on microalgae have been performed in space since the 1960’s and more recently on board the ISS, where there are plans to expand the capacity to enable more advanced experiments and research of these organisms.
Given the growth in the space sector, the UK is at a pivotal point in leading fundamental, translational and applied algal research for the health and life support space systems (e.g. within ESA SciSpace Roadmap 7 - Supporting human habitation in hostile space environments). There is also a very strong
international focus on lunar exploration and countries are adapting their strategic agenda to be part of it. For example, algal research falls under the current ESA programme remit to “Establish what is required to enable life (microbes, plants) to survive in the lunar environment”. It is very likely that the
first European (possibly UK) experiments to grow species on the moon will be with microalgae.
Original languageEnglish
TypePosition paper
Media of outputonline pdf report
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

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