Space travelers

Humanity has been striving to get closer to the stars. We are making huge efforts trying to uncover the secrets of the Universe. And now we are closer than ever to interplanetary flights and colonization of new worlds. Current research is focused on the nearest planet – Mars. No matter how technical solutions are improved to increase the flight range, the discovery of deep space will be impossible without satisfying the human body's need for energy, that is, food. At the moment, the astronauts' diet consists of food products that are delivered from Earth.

Cost is high

Astronauts should stick to a healthy and nutritious diet. Taking into account that every crew member consumes about 3000 kcal per day, the storage of food lasts only for a few weeks. The average cost of delivering cargo to orbit is about $40,000 per 1 kg. Since the cost must include insurance risks as well as the work of specialists, it becomes even higher. At the same time, long space missions (Mars mission) can take up to 10 months with no ability to deliver food from Earth.

Therefore, food autonomy is necessary!

Previous attempts

Nowadays, there are several programs for producing food in space based on plants and their ability to convert CO2 into carbohydrates.
LADA Greenhouse and NASA's Veggie were used to grow plants on board.
Due to the fact that higher plants grow slowly and require maintenance and care, these systems cannot provide the entire crew with the necessary amount of food.
There is also a cyanobacterial bioreactor by MELiSSA. This bioreactor system enables oxygen production and a food complement during spaceflight. This experiment provided hopeful results about the growth of the cyanobacteria Arthrospira sp. and associated oxygen production.

We are sure that the most promising solution for spaceship-grown food is microalgae they don’t rely on gravity to grow can be grown in a bioreactor which is user friendly and less maintenance demanding can clean up the generated wastewater they are highly productive, nutritious, and mostly safe to eat produce oxygen as a vital byproduct.

As our solution, we decided to elaborate the usage of cyanobacteria Arthrospira platensis as the main food source on board spacecraft, since it is able to double its biomass in less than 6 hours and is rich with essential nutrients. However, Arthrospira is tasteless as well as other microalgae. Despite all benefits, this little problem can lead to frustration for crew members.

We decided to solve it by modifying cells with biosynthetic pathways for flavourings and colourings, as cyanobacteria have a wide variety of secondary metabolites to start from. Later on, the issue of food texture and the cooking process will also be addressed.

We control flavouring via an optogenetic system. It allows us to switch between states of Arthrospira cultivating: from intensive growing to flavour accumulation. Our system includes three stimulating wavelengths: 760 nm, 640 nm, and 450 nm.

Our solution

Optogenetic system

Far Red light (760 nm) induces the expression of “flavour gene” and makes Arthrospira tasty. It occurs with the help of BphP1, which becomes active due to red light influence.
Red light (640 nm) turns off BphP1 activity. Athrospira doesn’t express the flavour. However, red light isn’t enough to block expression completely in some cases.
Blue light (450 nm) prevents “flavour gene” activity. That means Arthrospira switches to growth instead of flavouring.


Space agencies

Space agencies can introduce microalgae bioreactors into the life support system for astronauts on orbital stations and spacecraft

Fashion superfood

Spirulina is a food source, which is more green, requires less resources, is rich with protein and fatty acids, essential amino acids, and will be expanded with a variety of tastes!

Animal farming

Nowadays, Arthrospira platensis has already been proposed as a food supplement for livestock as it is rich in protein and can boost biomass accumulation. This makes farming more green and relieves the need for antibiotics.

Medical applications

We also suggest using Arthrospira platensis as a delivery system for gastrointestinal drugs. Such steps in drug production as production, purification and packing of medical substances in form of pills and capsules will be avoided.