Science/Tech

Astronauts Grow Meat In Space For The First Time

The year 2019 is full of first time experiences and discoveries for scientists exploring space. We saw the first official image of a black hole, discovered traces of water on Mars, the first plant on the Moon and now astronauts grew the first meat outside of Earth. 

Israel-based startup Aleph Farms led a recent project that allowed the production of meat on the International Space Station (ISS). The company sent its technology to the Russian segment at the station in late September aboard the Soyuz spacecraft, Business Insider reported Tuesday.

Aleph Farms uses 3D-printing technology to “grow” its meat. The process involves a small biopsy to extract cells from a cow and placing the samples to "broth" of nutrients that provides the same environment like inside the animal’s body. 

The 3D printer then starts to manipulate the cells and create meat. Aleph Farms started making and cooking lab-grown steaks in December 2018. 

The company sent its technology to space to prove that it can grow meat in all kinds of environments, even harsh places. 

"We're the only company that has the capacity to make fully-textured meat that includes muscle fibers and blood vessels — all the components that provide the necessary structure and connections for the tissue," Aleph Farms CEO and co-founder Didier Toubia told Business Insider.

At the ISS, Russian astronauts, otherwise known as cosmonauts, tested the meat-making tech using a magnetic printer created by Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions.

The printer was able to manipulate the cells and produce muscle tissue or meat. The final product replicated real meat but the cosmonauts did not consume it. 

The team sent the final product back to Earth on October 3.

"This experiment was strictly proof of concept," Grigoriy Shalunov, a project manager at 3D Bioprinting Solutions, said. He added the same approach may provide protein sources for deep space missions in the future, including the journey to Mars. 

Printing meat in space also provides new information that the food industry can use on Earth. Having the 3D printer work in microgravity means it could also produce food for consumption in extreme environments, including communities where water or land is scarce.

ISS In cooperation with our partners, the International Space Station will be extended likely to 2020 or beyond enabling this vital orbiting laboratory to reach its full potential. NASA.gov

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