Target: Mars. The veg garden in the simulated mission in Oman is Made in Italy
Preparations for the exploration of Mars make a leap forward with the Amadee-18 mission started in Oman to test, in an environment that resembles Mars, tools and procedures for future space missions to the Red Planet.
The mission, coordinated by the Austrian Space Forum, hosts 15 experiments, 4 of which are Italian. They include a hyper-technological vegetable garden developed by ENEA, ASI and University of Milan as part of the HortExtreme project.
The 4 square metre, Made in Italy, innovative, vertical, soilless growing system allows the cultivation of four red microgreens: amaranth, cabbage, mustard and radish. Thanks to Led lights, controlled atmosphere and recirculated water, the micro vegetables can be grown without the use of pesticides and agrochemicals.
The aim is to ensure that the crew members of this and other future missions in extreme environments have a correct nutritional intake.
The vegetables grown during the experiment, in fact, were specifically selected among those with a 15-day vital cycle for their ability to accumulate significant amounts of minerals and phytonutrients such as vitamins, carotenoids and flavonoids, including anthocyanins, molecules having high antioxidant capacity.
The innovative system is used by the 5 astronauts of the mission to integrate a diet based mainly on canned food with the vegetables produced in the Made in Italy vegetable garden.
The experiments will not only test the feasibility of the system, but they will also help assess its energy consumption, estimate its productivity and select the varieties of plants that are able to adapt to extreme environments like Antarctica on Earth or distant planets like Mars.
Thanks to an advanced sensor network, the experimental activities are coordinated and monitored by the Italian researchers who developed HortExtreme from the ENEA Casaccia Research Centre, directly connected with the base.
The experiments performed during the Amadee-18 mission range from engineering to planetary surface operations, from astrobiology to geophysics and geology, to life sciences.