search

Space meat and hummus: Israel finalizes experiments for upcoming ISS mission

35 projects, part of Rakia program of research studies on International Space Station, to be performed by Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe this spring

Ricky Ben-David is The Times of Israel’s Tech Israel editor and reporter.

  • The Fluidic Telescope Experiment (FLUTE), was designed and built by researchers in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion in collaboration with a team of researchers at NASA. (Courtesy of the Technion)
    The Fluidic Telescope Experiment (FLUTE), was designed and built by researchers in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion in collaboration with a team of researchers at NASA. (Courtesy of the Technion)
  • Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe. (Ori Burg)
    Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe. (Ori Burg)
  • Eytan Stibbe trains for Rakia mission, January 2022. (Ori Burg)
    Eytan Stibbe trains for Rakia mission, January 2022. (Ori Burg)
  • Eytan Stibbe trains for a study with the Fluidic Telescope Experiment (FLUTE) designed and built by researchers in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion in collaboration with a team of researchers at NASA. (Courtesy of the Technion)
    Eytan Stibbe trains for a study with the Fluidic Telescope Experiment (FLUTE) designed and built by researchers in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion in collaboration with a team of researchers at NASA. (Courtesy of the Technion)
  • Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe trains for upcoming Rakia space mission in the spring of 2022. (Ori Burg)
    Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe trains for upcoming Rakia space mission in the spring of 2022. (Ori Burg)
  • Part of the Rakia space mission, the 'Meat for Space' experiment will research the impact of the lack of gravity on the cultivation of animal cells that make up the muscle tissue for cultured meat. (Aleph Farms)
    Part of the Rakia space mission, the 'Meat for Space' experiment will research the impact of the lack of gravity on the cultivation of animal cells that make up the muscle tissue for cultured meat. (Aleph Farms)
  • The Fluidic Telescope Experiment (FLUTE) will investigate the ability to leverage microgravity to produce high-quality lenses by shaping liquids into desired geometries, followed by their solidification. (Technion)
    The Fluidic Telescope Experiment (FLUTE) will investigate the ability to leverage microgravity to produce high-quality lenses by shaping liquids into desired geometries, followed by their solidification. (Technion)
  • One of the experiments aboard the Rakia mission is CRISPR-based genetic diagnostics for detecting viral and bacterial pathogens, antimicrobial resistance genes, and various contaminants, led by Dr. David Burstein of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Gur Pines of the Volcani Center. (Gur Pines)
    One of the experiments aboard the Rakia mission is CRISPR-based genetic diagnostics for detecting viral and bacterial pathogens, antimicrobial resistance genes, and various contaminants, led by Dr. David Burstein of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Gur Pines of the Volcani Center. (Gur Pines)

Israel has finalized 35 scientific, medical and educational experiments set to be performed this spring by Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe as part of Israel’s Rakia Mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The upcoming experiments were given final approval by the Ramon Foundation, the Israel Space Agency, and the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology, the parties announced on Monday, and are set to “save many years of research for hundreds of researchers and engineers from dozens of Israeli companies, universities, and hospitals.”

The Rakia (sky in Hebrew) program is part of Axiom Space Ax-1, the world’s first private mission to the ISS, set for this spring. Stibbe will travel to the ISS onboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule in late March (target date: March 31, 2022), to potentially become the second Israeli astronaut in space. The mission will be commanded by Spanish-American astronaut Axiom Space vice president Michael Lopez-Alegria and will be joined by Ax-1 mission pilot Larry Connor, an American entrepreneur and nonprofit activist investor, and Mark Pathy, Ax-1 mission specialist and Canadian researcher, in addition to Stibbe.

The overall mission “will pioneer a new phase of microgravity utilization amongst non-government entities – laying the groundwork for a full realization of low-Earth orbit’s possibilities and bringing critical findings back down to Earth,” according to Axiom Space.

Israel initially floated 44 proposed experiments last year, following an open call in late 2020 to scientists and entrepreneurs, and has settled on 35 in coordination with NASA and the European Space Agency.

The experiments to be performed during Stibbe’s approximately one week at the ISS, said the parties Monday, “have extraordinary importance and enormous potential to support the lives of astronauts in space and significantly improve life on Earth. The micro-gravity phenomenon… makes it possible to perform innovative experiments both scientifically and technologically and to develop products more efficiently than under the gravitational conditions on Earth.”

An image of the International Space Station (Andrey Armyagov Dreamstime)

The selected projects reflect a wide spectrum of scientific and technological disciplines — including radiation, genomics, immunology, neural functioning, quantum communication, astrophysics, agri-tech, communications, optics, ophthalmology, medical devices, and disease research.

Among the approved experiments are CRISPR-based genetic diagnostics for detecting viral and bacterial pathogens, antimicrobial resistance genes, and various contaminants, led by Dr. David Burstein of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Gur Pines of the Volcani Center; an analysis of immune dysfunction induced by space travel to facilitate the development of personalized therapies led by Prof. Yaacov Lawrence of the Sheba Medical Center together with Israeli precision oncology company Oncohost and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia; and a study of how microgravity affects “nano ghosts,” or nanometric cells extracted from stem cell membranes, which help with organ healing and temper immune reactions.

One of the experiments on the Rakia mission will examine how microgravity affects ‘nano ghosts,’ or nanometric cells that help with organ repair. (Courtesy)

Another experiment will perform urinalysis, analysis and screening of the urine for medical insights, in space using technology developed by Healthy.io, the Israeli maker of an FDA-approved smartphone app that allows users to take urine analysis tests at home.

In the food category, Stibbe will conduct research on the impact of lack of gravity on the cultivation of animal cells that make up the muscle tissue for cultured meat, together with Israeli cultivated meat startup Aleph Farms, a company that grows meat directly from cattle cells. The study, according to the company, will advance Aleph’s ability to “develop a complete process of cultivated meat production for long-term space missions and build an efficient production process that reduces the environmental footprint on Earth.”

The ‘space hummus’ experiment, part of the Rakia mission, will study the cultivation of chickpeas in space led by Dr. Yonatan Winetraub. (Aviv Labs)

Another food-related experiment, named “Space hummus,” will study the cultivation of chickpeas in space led by Dr. Yonatan Winetraub, one of the founders of the Beresheet spacecraft, as well as scientists and engineers from Israel and Stanford University, Moon2Mars Ventures team, D-Mars and students from the Yeruham Science Center.

Ten of the selected experiments are the result of a collaboration with international research partners. One of these experiments, the Fluidic Telescope Experiment (FLUTE), was designed and built by researchers in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion in collaboration with a team of researchers at NASA. It will investigate the ability to leverage microgravity to produce high-quality lenses by shaping liquids into desired geometries, followed by their solidification. A successful demonstration onboard the ISS will pave the way to the fabrication of advanced optical components in space, including the creation of extremely large space telescopes, overcoming today’s launch constraints, the statement said.

Eytan Stibbe trains for a study with the Fluidic Telescope Experiment (FLUTE) designed and built by researchers in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion in collaboration with a team of researchers at NASA. (Courtesy of the Technion)

Among the experiments dropped from the upcoming mission was a study to test the performance of an innovative lithium-ion battery under micro-gravity conditions, a partnership between the Israel Electric Corporation and Israeli battery tech company StoreDot, as well as research to characterize leukemia cells under microgravity conditions in both the presence and the absence of chemotherapy.

Stibbe has spent several months under intense training with NASA for the 35 experiments and general preparations for the mission.

In a statement Monday, Stibbe said the experiments have “enormous significance” and will help “dozens of Israeli researchers advance their important work, engage in sustainability for the benefit of life on Earth, help the Israeli space industry integrate into the international, public and commercial field and propel it forward.”

Inbal Kreiss, a space industry expert and chairperson of the scientific and technological committee of the Rakia program, said the mission was an “unprecedented opportunity for Israeli entrepreneurs and researchers to advance innovative ideas and test their experiments in a space environment, thereby advancing research and knowledge in the field.”

A urinalysis kit by Israeli company Healthy.io. (Aya Wind)

The success of the scientific experiments “is expected to lead to the establishment of space companies and the creation of jobs,” added Kreiss, who is also head of the Innovation Systems Missiles and Space Division at IAI-Israel Aerospace Industries.

Israeli Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology Orit Farkash-Hacohen said the global space industry was undergoing a “revolution” and that Israel needed to promote the civilian aspect of the field while integrating it into the Israeli tech sector.

The Rakia mission “is part of an important process of empowering this industry,” she said.

Shoshanna Solomon contributed to this report.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed