Agriculture in space soon a reality thanks to SCK•CEN in Mol?


With its international BioRock project, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) from Mol (Kempen region) is on board the SpaceX 18 rocket, which was launched on 24 July from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the international space station ISS. Its aim is to investigate the possibility of agriculture in space thanks to local rocks.

Since its first space experiment in 1969, SCK•CEN has always sought to improve the lives of astronauts and to better understand diseases on Earth. 50 years later, the research focuses specifically on space travellers' self-sufficiency in terms of water and food supply. SpaceX 18 has basalt from the earth, a volcanic rock, and three types of bacteria on board. If it transpires that the latter attach themselves to, and grow on, the basalt, which also happens to occur on the moon, and release nutrients despite the influence of gravity and space radiation, the rock may at a later stage be transformed into fertile agricultural soil and these nutrients may be suitable for food production in the form of agriculture. This makes the crew less dependent on material that has to be transported from the earth. The soil bacterium of SCK•CEN already survives in water with few nutrients, is resistant to toxicity and is able to grow.

SCK•CEN focuses on the safety of nuclear installations, well-considered management of radioactive waste and the protection of people and the environment against ionising radiation.