Researchers seek source of vitamins for space travelers

Researchers seek source of vitamins for space travelers

Dewatered sausage patties as well as salmon salad and chocolate pudding: on their historic journey to the moon in july 1969, the three u.S. Astronauts also carry a pit of earthly food science in their pack.

Some 50 years later, space travel is aiming for destinations far more distant than the earth satellite – such as mars. However, the further the cosmic excursions went, the more important food became. "Everyone wants to go to the moon and mars, but the question of resources is unclear – especially for a stay in space that lasts longer than three months," says expert jens hauslage.

The scientist from the german aerospace center (DLR) will oversee the launch of a rocket in sweden in mid-june, which will also have 20 grams of yeast on board: a small amount for research, but perhaps a rough step for space travel. For hauslage and his partners in the palatinate are interested in whether yeast can form B12 in weightlessness – the vitamin is important for humans. Normally people take it together with meat, but the universe demands alternatives. "Once we have clarified the B12 question," says hauslage, "we will have one less problem."

Its project partners in rhineland-palatinate are the neustadt wine campus and the landau eg beer project. "We from sudpfalz wanted to know whether yeast survives under such conditions," says dominik rodel from landau. That’s why they asked the space center for help. "The dlr is experimenting with yeast to supply vitamin b12 to people in closed systems and has brought us on board."By embedding the project in existing trials, there will only be organizational overhead, and there will be almost no costs, says rodel. The yeast is the smallest of a total of ten experiments flying in the rocket, says hauslage.

And here’s how it’s supposed to go down: probably on 11. June a twelve-meter-high rocket lifts off from the launch site near kiruna. The almost three-tonne rocket climbs to a height of 248 kilometers and returns to earth after six minutes in weightlessness – by parachute. "We want to take a molecular biological look at what yeast cells produce in this stressful situation," says hauslage. "After salvage, the yeast is cooled and sent by express to the neustadt wine campus. The examination there will certainly take several weeks."

Food has always been a central issue in space travel. In 1965, U.S. Astronaut john young took a corned beef sandwich on board and teased the technicians in the control center with the floating bread crumbs. A lot has changed since then – cold paste in aluminum tubes and happen in cube form are a thing of the past. The menu of the international space station ISS at a height of about 400 kilometers offers dozens of possibilities today.

Experiments have also been carried out with yeast, for example in 1997 in cooperation with the radiation center in gieben (hesse) on board the space station "mir" at that time. The difference to previous yeast experiments is that this time the researchers had so-called control groups on earth, says rodel. For some time now, lettuce and tomatoes have been grown on the ISS as an experiment to at least partially ensure the supply of fresh food for the astronauts.

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