Phase 2 projects

MASK (Microgravity Analysis of Spirulina Kinetics):
The quantification of the space environmental conditions on the kinetics of the micro-organisms in one of the major points to size the MELISSA process. In the past, numerous investigations have been performed to assess the effects of reduced gravity and radiation on micro-organisms. However only a few of these studies tried to quantify these effects, and even then, often a doubt remains between the direct effect of microgravity and indirect effects (e.g. gas availability). The aim of the proposed experiment is to compare the growth rate of photosynthetic bacterium, Spirulina platensis, on Earth and microgravity conditions. The basic idea is to grow S. plastensis in non-limiting conditions at fixed pH and temperature, and to follow the oxygen production which is directly related to the growth rate. To obtain accurate data, the oxygen evolution is followed by the continuous measurement of the increase of pressure inside the bioreactor.

The BIORAT experiment is an introductory step to microgravity experiments and it consists of a closed ecosystem reduced to CO2/O2 exchanges between a photobioreactor, containing the cyanobacteria Arthrospira platensis in continuous culture and a consumer compartment containing mice. The carbon dioxide produced by the mice is consumed by the algae in the photosynthetic process, resulting in a production of oxygen.
The overall objective of this programme is the development of a breadboard with a basic configuration as close as possible to that of the flight mode. It will allow:

  • development of a photobioreactor, and associated instrumentation
  • calibration of our existing control law to this specific hardware
  • ground demonstration of the breadboard during real condition tests with a consumer
  • identification of any remaining uncertainties

BIORAT has demonstrated in a preliminary activity with a “real consumer” (i.e. a mouse) the MELiSSA’s predictive control approach feasibility and the possibility to recycle O2/CO2.

FEMME (First Extraterrestrial Man Made Ecosystem):
The maintenance and propagation of Life in an environment with different g-level, radiation, and temperature fluctuation is fundamental scientific research. Taking benefit from the past experience with the "Long Marche experiment" flown in 1987, it is proposed to study and develop hardware for an unpressurised system which could support bacterial cultures.

It is well accepted that, in a space mission, microorganisms can be hazardous for the crew and contribute for the corrosion of materials. They can also contaminate food and water and are present in wastes. Therefore, in a closed system like the International Space Station or in a future long-duration flight it is of major importance to understand how microorganisms respond to space conditions (radiation, microgravity, magnetism…), especially if we consider how fast these living beings grow and duplicate. Earth-only experiments are incomplete and could lead to misleading predictions.

MESSAGE (Microbial Experiment in Space Station About Gene Expression) is a flight experiment which aims at comparing the growth and gene expression of microorganisms in space and Earth conditions. There is a survey for differences in physiology, motility, genetic stability, and genes/proteins that are specifically expressed/induced in space conditions.

This experiment (MESSAGE 1) was performed by Frank de Winne in November 2002, in the Belgian Taxi Flight (scientific odISSea mission) and was repeated (MESSAGE 2) in November 2003 by Pedro Duque in the Spanish Soyuz mission (Cervantes Mission).
Last update: 22 November 2007

In depth

 •  BIORAT (http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Melissa/SEMNXI8RR1F_0.html)