We Are The New Farmers

Reaching for the Stars

Reaching for the Stars

For all of the prominent and prolonged expeditions throughout history, nutrition has repeatedly proven itself to be one of the most important factors to impact both the safety and success of any mission—whether it entails voyaging across oceans, traversing planes of polar ice, trekking through unexplored territory, or journeying beyond our atmosphere into the vast expanse of space. On long-duration missions, there are always complex, multifaceted nutritional considerations, so, at the peak of the space age in the 1970s, NASA began conducting research to find the foods and supplements that would provide astronauts with the nutrients they needed most in harsh environmental conditions. Understanding the intake requirements of space-travelers and the role of nutrition in human adaptation to microgravity are as critical to a mission’s safety and success as any of the mechanical systems of the spacecraft itself.

The physiological factors that must be accounted for during space travel include—but are certainly not limited to—bone density depletion, muscular atrophy, change in metabolic rate, loss of body mass, cardiovascular degradation, impairment of immune function, and neurovestibular changes. Moreover, the environmental issues, including radiation exposure and cabin environment (O2/CO2, temperature, and humidity) can also have profound effects on the body, and provide areas where astronauts’ nutrient intake may serve as countermeasures. In short, all of the nutritional concerns we face here on Earth take on exponentially greater importance during extended, physically-taxing journeys through space.

And that is precisely where spirulina comes into play. Loaded with almost all necessary potassium, calcium, magnesium and beta-carotene that the human body needs, spirulina’s rare makeup contains all eight essential amino acids. What’s more, algae has the potential to provide astronauts with large amounts of protein in a super concentrated, super nutrient-dense, powerhouse superfood. Further still, its iron and folic acid content helps to enhance hemoglobin levels in the blood and maintain healthy immune function, as it’s sixty times more absorbable than normal iron supplements. For astronauts embarking on long-duration space missions, NASA found that spirulina was one of the most powerful, concentrated foods available to mankind for strengthening their immune systems and removing toxins from the body.

In addition to successfully providing astronauts with the nutrients they need, NASA has grown an even deeper interest in spirulina and microalgae at large for its radical applications in life support and biofuel systems. In fact, NASA has recently found the benefits of spirulina’s distant cousin, chlorella vulgaris, in general life support. According to their studies, microalgae has up to ten times the photosynthetic efficiency of complex plants, meaning it is far more productive at absorbing light and converting it into chemical energy. One such technology that takes advantage of microalgae is the agency’s photobioreactor, an instrument used to cultivate microalgae not only for consumption, but also as a tool to remove CO2 from the International Space Station and release fresh oxygen.
So we figured hey—why not fly in the wake of these sagaciously-stocked spaceships, carrying the diet of an astronaut into our own kitchens? After all, it’s just rocket science.