Israeli group SpaceIL partners with NASA to grow chickpeas in space

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AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
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The Israeli group SpaceIL has teamed up with NASA to experiment with growing chickpeas in space.

The mission will involve the expertise of SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Winetraub, as well as engineers from Stanford University and Israel, and will take place on 19 February, according to The Times of Israel.

The project has been partially funded by Israeli food product manufacturer Strauss Group.

A miniature greenhouse with28 chickpea seeds will be transported into space on a NASA cargo space shuttle.
The shuttle will aim to land on the International Space Station (ISS), and the greenhouse will head for the American section of ISS.
Once they makes it to the ISS, the chickpea seeds will be grown using a technology that has been built to encourage seed growth without the need for natural occurring light or gravity.
The seeds will not be grown in soil, but in a gel packed with nutrients. A camera will monitor the seeds growth.
The chickpea plants will be grown during a period of one month. They will then be kept in a refrigerating system and transported back to Earth nearly four months later.

A selection of school students in Israel have also been tasked with analysing the growth of chickpeas with and without gravity, in order to help the SpaceIL and NASA’s mission. Another group of young pupils from the Yerham Science Centre is also going to examine the growth of the chickpeas in space from Earth, by analysing different light wavelengths.

This experiment is one of several attempts to bring food production to space. NASA is already looking at how to produce vegetables in space, through its Vegetable Production System. NASA is also in the process of its second phase of the Deep Space Food Challenge, which calls for a range of advanced foodtech companies to develop safe and sustainable methods for producing appetising and healthy foods to feed a team of four on a three-year mission in space.

In 2021, the launch of an Abu-Dhabi-based space AgTech research centre, StarLab Oasis, was also announced. Scientists will experiment with different ways to grow foods in difficult growing conditions, both on Earth and in space, in an attempt to improve food security for the region in the future.

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