Hummus in space
Astronauts in space, on the moon and eventually on Mars, will have to grow their own food. Relying on supply from earth will no longer be an option.
It happens to be that one of the most common and popular foods in the Mediterranean area and beyond, chickpeas, or hummus in local language, is considered a super food. Chickpeas are rich in nutrients and easy to grow, an ideal candidate for growing plants in space.
The team of Aviv Labs developed a chickpea growth experiment, to be tested in zero gravity in the international space station.
Our mission was to design the "package" containing the agar element from which the chickpea grains sprout. This package is like a mini ecosystem, almost entirely independent (although receiving oxygen from its surroundings), and contains special LEDs that enable the process of photosynthesis, cameras to monitor the daily growth, and software.
The astronauts are responsible for the week's experiment, and supervise it daily.
As usual, when designing sophisticated and delicate systems, we are facing numerous challenges. Many engineering, functional and physical issues, including a very severe standard list from Nasa, regarding what is legitimate to send to the space station.
But besides all these, we asked ourselves:
Is it a scientific creature? Is it futuristic? Is it agriculture? A platform for food?
What is the dosage between familiarity and futuristic sci fi?
Although we are enthusiastic about the design of every product, we must admit that sending our design to space creates a unique thrill.
The package was sent on February 2022 to the International Space Station. The results surprised the team in several ways. The initial growth was beyond expectation, and exceeded the experiment on earth. There occurred to be an orientation problem for the sprouts, which tended to grow in all directions. After a very promising debut, the sprouts eventually lost vitality and died. The team has been analyzing the results, and their conclusions will serve as a platform for the next experiments, which will be sent to the moon.