Why did the wine and the vine fly into space?

by time news

At the same time when Elon Musk shocked the world community with his statement about his intention to spend all the capital on the colonization of Mars, in near-earth orbit, on board the international space station “Mir”, two boxes of Bordeaux wine and 320 grape cuttings circled around our planet. vines that were delivered into space just on the Space X Dragon 2 spacecraft built by Musk. The first wine-space expedition lasted 14 months, after which valuable luggage was loaded into an unmanned descent vehicle and returned to Earth in early 2021.

Wine and saplings were not the prop for filming the second part of “The Martian” or the sequel to “Good Year”, although this is a beautiful plot and he could probably interest Ridley Scott. The experiment, in which cuttings and wine were delivered into orbit, was to investigate the ability of the vine and the main product obtained from its fruits to adapt in extreme conditions.

The launch of biological material into orbit was carried out as part of the Commubios project, which involves comparing the performance of two identical batches of prototypes. They were stored under the same conditions: in containers that provided complete darkness, 70–80% humidity, and a controlled temperature of 0.5–8 ° C for cuttings and 18 ° C for wine. The only difference was that one of these parties remained on Earth, and the second went into orbit, where it was in a state of almost complete weightlessness and under the influence of increased solar radiation.

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After the successful landing of the lander, the prototypes were first delivered to Florida, where scientists recorded the first operational indicators (before the effect of gravity could significantly change them), then work continued at the NanoRacks research center in Houston, and after that the wines and vines went to home, in Bordeaux, where in the famous Scientific Research Institute of Wine (Institut Superieur de la Science et du Vin), an analysis of genetic changes that could occur in space will be carried out.

One of the most intriguing stress tests for both pilot batches is the fungal resistance benchmark test. The coronavirus epidemic overshadowed many of the problems facing agriculture, but in fact, the fungal pandemic did not stop its destructive invasion of the vineyards, orchards and vegetable gardens of planet Earth.

The spread of powdery mildew (powdery mildew), downy mildew (mildew), gray rot and other fungal diseases, as well as a noticeable increase in their resistance to existing fungicides, have recently become catastrophic for both winemaking and agriculture in general. One of the theories suggests that the increased activity of fungi may be associated with the aggravation of the ecological situation and, in particular, with the increased exposure to solar radiation.

This hypothesis, among others, should be verified by a space experiment. Scientists do not exclude the opposite result – a space odyssey could increase the resistance of plants to fungal diseases. As a rule, under the threat of a radical change in environmental conditions, living organisms mobilize their defense mechanisms. If such an effect is confirmed by analyzes, the near-earth orbit can become a salvage dispensary for the planting material of the most valuable crops.

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The research will concern not only grapevine cuttings, but also the wines themselves that have returned to Earth from space. Among other factors, the content of polyphenols, terpenoids and other key components that affect its aroma and taste will be analyzed. Scientists will also check whether the wine’s resistance to harmful influences changes after being in space – in particular, from Brettanomyces. And of course, among all the other results of laboratory analyzes of space wines, the whole wine world is most eagerly awaiting a tasting report. There are no rumors about who is lucky to be invited to the tasting committee. To avoid accusations of hidden advertising, the name of the Bordeaux chateau, which provided the samples for the experiment, is also not disclosed under any pretext. Although informed sources made it clear that, of course, the most expensive Bordeaux wine went into space.

The space expedition of wines and vines is the third of six stages of the international program WISE (abbreviation of the full Latin name Vitis Vinum in Spatium Experimentia). The experiments of this program should show how significant evolutionary changes a particular agricultural crop can undergo as a result of adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Together with the materials of the wine experiment in the Space X Dragon 2 descent vehicle, the muscles of the heart and other internal organs, optical fiber produced in space, and living mice have returned to Earth from space this time.

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