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New Discoveries in Space: Food security by growing plants in Space

Human fascination for Mars has always been prominent across Space Researches.

According to a recent study published in peer-reviewed scientific journal Frontiers in Microbiology, NASA has notified three new bacterial strains found at the International Space Station to be of help in growing plants on Mars.

Although in total there are four strains of bacteria discovered at the International Space Station (ISS) but the three are new and we’re previously unknown to science.

However all the four discovered bacterial strains belong to a family of bacteria found in soil and freshwater.

How can they help produce food in Space?

Through the study, researchers have associated the latest discovered strains with the Methylobacteriaceae family.

Being relatives of Methylobacterium indicum – a bacterium isolated from rice, these strains can utilise One-carbon compounds like methanol or methane as their carbon source to grow.

These rod-shaped, motile bacteria strains were given the designations IF7SW-B2T, IIF1SW-B5, and IIF4SW-B5.

Growing plants on ISS

They can also help in Nitrogen fixation and provide usable Nitrogen to plants and phosphate solubilization in plants that has the potential to trigger further absorption and plant growth.

Here the molecular nitrogen (N2) in the air gets converted into ammonia (NH4) that is further involved with plant growth. Additionally it may keep away plant pathogens.

It has proven to be a greater discovery in the long run as using this technique, food could be grown and be consumed by the future Astronauts.

When on deep-space missions, seeds outside the Earth seems to need a little extra help from bacteria to grow. These strains can then act as a ‘fuel’ to help plants survive such stressful Space experiences.

Also the isolation of novel important growth inducing microbes assisting in plant growth during adverse conditions is essential and shall be empowered as the strains may have biotechnologically-useful genetic determinants.

How were they found?

According to a Scientist involved with the study, every Space Organisation is keen to send humans to the surface of Mars or potentially beyond.

Therefore US National Research Council Decadal Survey recommends the ISS to be used as a “test-bed for surveying microorganisms”.

“Since our group possess expertise in cultivating microorganisms from extreme niches, we have been tasked by the NASA Space Biology Program to survey the ISS for the presence and persistence of the microorganisms,”

“Needless to say, the ISS is a cleanly-maintained extreme environment. Crew safety is the number 1 priority and hence understanding human/plant pathogens are important, but beneficial microbes like this novel Methylobacterium ajmalii are also needed.”

Underviewing the above, 8 locations on ISS have been monitored for bacterial growths for the last 6 years.

Approximately 1,000 samples from almost all locations of ISS have been fetched but are awaiting a trip back to Earth where they can be examined.

All this can help Worldly Space Organisations to spread their motives across the Universe for longer times in a sustainable fashion.

Mars and India:

ISRO began prospecting for a trip to Mars through a probe called MOM(Mars Orbiter Mission) or Mangalyaan.

MOM was successfully launched in 2013, India’s first interplanetary mission achieved great success and brought India on the same pedestal with Space Organisations like ROSCOSMOS, NASA and ESA.

However India became first country in the World to have reached Mars in its maiden attempt.
It was a ‘technology Demonstrator‘ project.

MOM completed its 4 years in 2018 in its orbit encircling Mars, although the designed mission life was only six months.
Its Colour Camera captured over 980 images which were then released to the public. The probe is still in good health and continues to work nominally.

Mars Orbiter Mission 2 (MOM 2) or Mangalyaan-2 will be a follow-up to MOM.

India’s second interplanetary mission has been planned by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and is likely to be an Orbiter mission and not for landing on Martian Soil.
Probable launching will be late 2021 or perhaps 2022.

New Revelation: Water beneath Mars’ crust embedded Minerals

It has been known to the Scientific community that Mars had water on its surface billions of years ago but there has seemingly been no idea of where it is now?

The Mars of past is expected to host enough water that could cover the whole planet in roughly 100 to 1,500 meters (330 to 4,4920 feet) of ocean.

However a new study funded by NASA has claimed that the Martian crust forms so-called HYDRATED minerals because the minerals so formed, actually have water trapped in their crystal structure through complex chemical process.

As per Scheller’s model, approximately 30 – 99 percent of the initial water quantity is still trapped inside these minerals under Martian soil.

Mars losing its water

But how could the planet become so arid, desolate?

The planet had lost its magnetic field alone in the beginning of its lifetime, consequently its atmosphere waned off in due time. It is how Mars is assumed to have lost its water between four to 3.7 billion years ago.

Through our technological minions on Mars, we have kept an eye on the available Hydrogen on the planet because the lighter form of Hydrogen molecule escapes the planet at a comparatively faster rate and hence, any such loss of planet’s water to space would leave relatively more deuterium or “heavy hydrogen” behind.

The world space organisations are yet to process and collate the information that will be shared by Perseverance.

About the author

Alaina Ali Beg

I am a lover of all arts and therefore can dream myself in all places where the World takes me. I am an avid animal lover and firmly believes that Nature is the true sorcerer.

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