Watermeal Explored for Astronaut Nutrition and Oxygen Production

  • 09 Oct 2023

Recently, scientists have been investigating the potential of watermeal, the world's smallest flowering plant, as a source of nutrition and oxygen for astronauts.

Key Points

  • Hypergravity Study at ESA's ESTEC Centre: Researchers conducted their study at the European Space Agency's (ESA) ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands. They exposed the tiny watermeal plants to hypergravity conditions using ESA's Large Diameter Centrifuge (LDC).
  • Watermeal Characteristics: Watermeal, smaller than duckweed, is a rootless, stemless plant that floats on water bodies, commonly found in Thailand and other Asian countries.
  • Its simplicity and rapid growth rate make it an ideal candidate for studying the impact of changing gravity on plant development.
  • Unique Focus on Gravity Effects: Since watermeal lacks roots, stems, or leaves, it's essentially a sphere floating on water.
  • This allows researchers to directly study the effects of gravity shifts on its growth and development.
  • Nutritional and Oxygen Potential: Watermeal is not only small but also a prolific oxygen producer through photosynthesis.
  • Additionally, it is a rich source of protein and has been a part of the local diet in Thailand, consumed in various culinary forms.
  • Space-Based Agriculture: Tulyananda emphasized the promise of watermeal for space-based agriculture.
  • When consumed, 100% of the plant is used, making it a potential candidate for astronaut nutrition.
  • Potential for Sustainable Agriculture in Space: The study is expected to provide valuable insights into how plants adapt to different gravity environments.
  • These insights could potentially pave the way for sustainable agriculture in space, addressing nutrition and oxygen needs for astronauts.