In a bid to learn more about the potential of agriculture beyond earth, the UAE Space Agency will launch palm tree seeds to the International Space Station.
The experiment is being conducted in cooperation with the College of Food and Agriculture at United Arab Emirates University and commercial space company NanoRacks.
On July 24, a Falcon 9 rocket launching from Cape Canaveral will carry SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to the ISS, and part of its cargo will be the palm tree seeds with a plan to see if they eventually be planted on Mars.
The study will focus on the seeds’ behaviour and their water absorption in zero gravity. They will be returned to earth after two months of extensive experimentation. The seeds will then be planted on earth to enable further research, analysis, and experimentation, with a special focus on the potential changes they experienced due to their space journey.
The project supports international efforts to achieve food security on earth and in space. It represents the UAE’s continued contribution to developing solutions to the agriculture, food, water and oxygen challenges presented by space colonization.
These studies also tackle some of the agriculture challenges that we face on earth, especially in countries with harsh weather conditions and water scarcity, such as the UAE.
Dr. Khaled Al Hashmi, director of space missions at UAE Space Agency said: “The rapid development of our national space industry allows us to launch some of the most complex projects in the field. This project is a testimony of the UAE’s key role in space research. This project also falls within the framework of the UAE Space Agency’s strategic objectives for supporting space research in the UAE, and its efforts to promote regional and international partnerships.”