Israeli Researchers Work to Develop System to Supply Oxygen, Food and Water to Lunar & Martian Bases

One of the challenges facing manned missions in outer space, such as those planned by NASA for the Moon and Mars, is the supply of food and oxygen production for subsistence. Researchers are developing, with the assistance of the Israeli Space Agency in the Ministry of Science, an unique system that will provide oxygen, food and water for staff to use in manned remote space stations. At the same time, the system will be used to recycle carbon dioxide (CO2) and human waste, in a resource-limited environment.

The research will be carried out jointly by four research groups and each has a complementary specialization from a different field, all of which are necessary for the success of the project. This is based on the understanding that only synergistic and multidisciplinary research will lead to innovative and practical solutions. 

The first group is that of Dr. Yaron Yehoshua from the Algae Biotechnology Center at Bar-Ilan University. Specializing in microbiotic biotechnology and biological research in automated growth systems. The second group is the research group of Dr. Ashraf al-Ashhav from Desert and Dead Sea R&D, which specializes in molecular biology of organisms in extreme living environments. The third group is by Prof. Yitzhak Mastai from the Department of Chemistry at Bar-Ilan University, who specializes in materials chemistry. The project examines the effects of space fuel and metallic surfaces on algae growth. The fourth is by Dr. Itzik Sapir of Afeka College, which specializes in technological developments in the field of engineering. The multidisciplinary and multi-researcher project is centered by Dr. Igor Darji of VITS Energy Ltd.

According to the researchers, they will first test and implement a treatment for a particularly toxic fuel – hydrazine, and later will switch to additional missile fuels for testing. Here, for the first time, different species of algae, organisms and different extremophiles will be examined and their suitability for the task according to different parameters such as survival, growth rate, oxygen production capacity and biomass production rate. 

RNA & DNA analyzes of the most promising cultures will be performed to find optimal symbiosis between algae and bacteria. In addition, the system will include a variety of components and technologies, the development of which will begin here for the first time.

Support for Space Colonies

Dr. Yaron Yehoshua, from the Biotechnology Center for Algae at the Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, said: “A new commercial space is currently looking for solutions to support distant space colonies, to enable life and work on the moon and other places. In addition, the results of our research also have a practical capability on Earth, thus making it dual-use, not just space. The study examines the effects of space fuel and the titanium from which the fuel tanks are made on algae and bacteria. “In this process, spacecraft and missile fuel tanks, after being emptied, become part of life-support systems that can supply oxygen, and later food and medicine.” 

Dr. Yehoshua’s research partner is Dr. Yael Kinel-Tahan. “Just as algae formed the basis for the evolution of life on Earth,” explains Kinel-Tahan, “so they can serve as a basis for creating a suitable ecological environment for humanity in distant space colonies. Their growth rate is very fast, they produce oxygen, carbon dioxide regulators, some Suitable as food for a person. ” 

Dr. Ashraf al-Ashab, from the R&D Desert and the Dead Sea, added that “the State of Israel has very rare natural resources such as the Dead Sea. We should preserve this environment so that we can continue to explore and not lose the existing one. Extromephilic bacteria from the Dead Sea here in Israel, Can solve biotechnological challenges in space colonies and on Earth. In specific desert and Dead Sea conditions, there is a fascinating extreme biology. “

As an environmental microbiology researcher, Dr. Al Ashabh came with past experience with a variety of soil bacteria. In the first ecological study conducted by Dr. Ashraf in R&D, he was surprised to find that about 40% of the bacterial population is not known in the literature or existing databases. Embodies great potential for many biotechnological uses, some initial scans showing innovative and unique metabolic activity for use in agriculture (pest control, for example), etc. These bacteria showed tremendous potential for use, along with algae, for advanced technological solutions to human and human challenges.

Dr. Al Ashab’s group is partnered with Dr. Reut Sork Abramovich, an astrobiologist from the Desert and Dead Sea R&D who promotes a variety of space issues, the chairman of the Israeli Mars Association, the director of an education program for high school students in space issues, and one of the founders of the Dimars Association. Space simulations in Ramon Crater, in collaboration with the Israel Space Agency.

The research is funded by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology and the Israel Space Agency. Following the study, the Israeli Forum for Living in Distant Space Colonies was established.

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