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NASA to contribute to agricultural research

This image taken by the Landsat satellite shows an agricultural region in Idaho on August 14, 2000, captured in the visible spectrum
© NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

 

The US Department of Agriculture and NASA have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening their longstanding partnership on space-based assets benefitting life on Earth. The agreement brings together NASA’s experience with technology development and space-borne Earth science measurements and USDA’s scientific experience and knowledge of agricultural production, resource conservation, food security and safety, and forests and working lands.

USDA and NASA will explore research gaps of importance to the agricultural community that could be addressed through innovative Earth observation systems and technologies developed over the next decade. The collaboration also will address recommendations made in the 2017 National Academies’ Earth Science Decadal Survey.

“As we’ve seen over the past 100 years, increasing innovation in agriculture is limitless,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “This partnership between USDA and NASA will bring together the best research, science, and technology we have to offer to help produce more food to feed the growing world. We are continuing an already great collaborative effort to utilize space-based technologies across sectors and into agriculture.”

“When we combine research on the International Space Station with the amazing capabilities that Earth observation provides, I believe that NASA, in partnership with USDA, could transform farming and bolster agricultural production in ways we can’t even imagine today,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Microgravity research can unlock secrets in a wide variety of fields, and I’m particularly excited about our agency’s potential impact on next-generation agricultural techniques.”

The agreement also will leverage USDA’s connections with the agricultural community and the global marketplace.

The partnership outlined in the agreement will benefit a variety of Earth and space-based goals, including activities in support of NASA’s Artremis programme, which will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon and establish sustainable exploration with our commercial and international partners. Plant-related research on the International Space Station, and other space or ground platforms, may lead to creative new ways to improve American and global agriculture, protect the environment, and contribute to better human health. 

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Berries could help astronauts offset the ravages of outer space

Berries are the basis of a special high-vitamin food developed by China’s Harbin Institute of Technology to help protect astronauts from the extreme conditions of outer space.

Berries feature in a special high-vitamin food to help keep astronauts healthy during long stints in space.

The advent of space stations means longer periods beyond Earth and thus more exposure to extreme conditions – including the effects of space radiation and microgravity. But Chinese scientists says they have developed a vitamin supplement compressed food that will help keep space travellers well and that tastes good, too.

China’s Harbin Institute of Technology – which has unique programs in the field of astronautics – is seeking a patent for the food, which is prepared from freeze-dried blueberry, honeysuckle, strawberry, raspberry, kiwifruit and blackcurrant powder.

It says in its patent application that these fruits are rich in vitamins and a low-temperature compressing technology is used to ensure the vitamins are not destroyed during processing.

“Because blueberries, indigo honeysuckle, strawberries, raspberries, kiwifruits, blackcurrant and other berries are used as the raw materials for preparing the special compressed food, …(it) can supplement the vitamins and other nutrients and also can well prevent a series of physiological changes of the astronauts due to the change of radiation intensity and gravity in space under long-term flight in extreme conditions, and particularly the extreme-environment induced oxidative damage to the bodies of the astronauts,” it says in the application, published by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are also among fruits NASA lists as among its baseline space shuttle food.

The issue of astronaut nutrition was in the news this week with images of astronauts eating red romaine lettuce grown aboard the International Space Station as part of NASA’s VEG-01 experiment (nicknamed “VEGGIE”).

Image: Computer-generated artist’s rendering of the completed International Space Station (2006), by NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons