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  • Writer's picturePhoebe Fraser

European Space Agency explores cell-based meat for space missions

The European Space Agency (ESA) has released an update on the potential for cultivating meat in space, stating that the research “looks promising”.

ESA has supported two research teams investigating the possibility of growing meat in space, with the primary goal to determine whether cell-based meat is a viable option for space, as a protein food source that can be produced in-situ.

Over the last year, the selected teams, one made up of German company Yuri and Reutlingen University, and the other of UK companies Kayser Space, Cellular Agriculture and Campden BRI, had the chance to develop this idea further with funding from the ‘Discovery’ element of ESA's ‘Basic Activities’.

ESA engineer Paolo Corradi said: "The focus is to provide astronauts with nutritious food during long-term missions far from Earth, overcoming the typical two-year shelf-life of traditional packaged supplies. Given the limited resources in space, growing fresh food in situ would be necessary to increase the resilience and self-sufficiency of a mission, and could also provide psychological support to the crew."

To tackle the challenge, the British and German teams have proposed different cell-based meat production methods and bioreactor technologies.

The ESA said that the research results are in – and they look promising. "After their analysis, both teams have come to similar conclusions and suggest that the idea of producing cultivated meat in space is not far-fetched and calls for further research," Corradi added.

ESA is also working to develop technologies to improve bioprocesses and metabolic resource use onboard the spacecraft. Christel Paille, ESA life support engineer and part of its cell-based meat activities, said: "ESA is investing significant efforts in researching advanced life support systems. We are creating ground prototypes to investigate, for instance, closed-loop systems that recover nutrients and recycle metabolic wastes. This could also be applied to cultivated meat production to recover the nutrient medium that we give to the cells.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst works on the Space Algae experiment on the International Space Station
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst works on the Space Algae experiment on the International Space Station

Corradi continued: "It's something that is still in its infancy, so we proposed a roadmap that outlines the steps required to progress the necessary technologies and fill current knowledge gaps.”

“This includes understanding how cells adapt to altered gravity and radiation," Garcia added. “By using facilities available at ESA, we will soon start experiments to understand these effects."


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