Spirulina in space


Spirulina is very healthy and super nutritious. Additionally, it is very easy to grow, it only requires mineral-rich water and sunlight. This was reason enough for NASA and ESA to propose spirulina as food for astronauts. 


NASA approves spirulina

National Aeronautical and Space Agency (NASA) has conducted many studies on spirulina as a potential plant food for space travel. Their goal was to provide the astronauts with food which is rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Spirulina is a rich source of beta carotene which helps to improve eyesight. Spirulina has a very high natural protein content. These proteins contain 18 of the 22 amino acids that the body needs and is easily digestible. Additionally, spirulina's high natural iron and folic acid content not only helps to increase hemoglobin levels in the blood but also the body absorbs the iron in spirulina up to sixty times better than regular iron capsules.


Spirulina owes its significantly growing reputation as a space food to the fact that it is super nutritious and very compact. As early as the 1970s, NASA discovered that spirulina is actually a safe and practical food choice that is completely suitable for being carried into space. The composition of spirulina makes it one of the most concentrated foods available to humanity. Moreover, it increases energy, it is very nutritious, it helps to detox the body by removing toxins and it is also incredibly easy to digest. Therefore, it is an excellent choice for those who will travel in space for weeks or even months!

The Melissa project

The European Space Agency (ESA) is investigating with the Melissa project (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) whether regenerative technologies for life support are possible in space.

Although the International Space Station is regularly supplied by space ships such as the Dragon, in the future, the necessity of a self-sustaining space flight will force us to produce and recycle precious resources such as oxygen. An experiment in space will look into that soon.


Researchers are investigating how photosynthesis - the process by which organisms convert light into energy and produce oxygen as a by-product - takes place in space. This pilot project is the first of its kind.

Dubbed the Artemiss project, the astronaut researchers loaded the microalgae Arthrospira, also known as spirulina, into a specially designed photobioreactor. On the space station, carbon dioxide is converted by photosynthesis into oxygen and edible biomass such as proteins.

While it's a routine process on Earth, we need to understand how it works in space before we can exploit it. The experiment lasts one month while the amount of oxygen from the algae is measured.

The microalgae will be analyzed after the return to Earth.  They will be looking at genetic information to get a clearer picture of the effects of weightlessness and radiation on the plant cell. Arthrospira is known to be highly resistant to radiation, but researchers should check how well it can withstand conditions in space.

The Artemiss project is part of the Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative, or Melissa, which develops regenerative life support technologies. Melissa covers many research and teaching activities, such as the AstroPlant citizen science project, which collects data on how plants grow under different degrees of light.