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Will we soon be breeding fish on the moon?

Will there be fish living on the moon soon? Maybe, if it depends on a team of French scientists. They want to launch fertilized fish eggs into space via nanosatellites to find out how crews of future Moon and Mars missions – and later perhaps colonies too – can live self-sufficient.

Researchers from the Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER) and the University of Montpellier are collaborating on a project, Lunar Hatch, to design a kind of fish farm on the moon that uses the water already present there is.

The intention is to feed residents of the future ‘monthly village’. As a reminder, the CEO of the European Space Agency (ESA) argued in 2016 for such a common base on the moon, for space projects of different countries and actors.

The Lunar Hatch project is just one of approximately 300 ideas currently being evaluated by ESA, and may or may not be selected for the final mission. Lunar Hatch is the brainchild of Cyrille Przybyla, a marine biologist at IFREMER.

“I suggested sending eggs, not fish, because eggs and embryos are very strong,” Przybyla told the online science magazine Hakai. And his recent experiments suggest he’s right. In a simulation to simulate the intense vibrations of a typical rocket launch, the researchers determined that the eggs had passed the test well.

Not all fish ‘space-worthy’

Although the team has also come to the conclusion that not all fish are equally spaceworthy. In his quest for the perfect space fish, Przybyla compiled a list of hundreds of species. Soon only a handful of them remained. Only species with a modest oxygen requirement, low carbon dioxide emissions, a short incubation time and more resistant to cosmic rays were considered.

Ultimately, the researchers decided to further study the eggs of two species: the European sea bass and the ombre fish. Cups of the eggs were first shaken in a lab with a shaker – a test they passed easily. Then they were tested in a machine that simulated the much harder vibrations from the launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket.

After the violent shocks, 76 percent of the sea bass eggs came out, compared to 82 percent of the control samples that were not shaken. The eggs of the ombervis fared even better: 95 percent of the shaken eggs hatched, compared to 92 percent of the eggs in the control group.

The researchers said they were dumbfounded. ‘It was crazy for words. The environment was very difficult for these eggs, ”says Przybyla, who suspects that the eggs evolved to survive in an environment where they can withstand strong currents, waves and hard surface collisions. In other words, they are naturally perfect for space.

Advantages of space fishing

Moreover, fish in space have many advantages. In addition to the high nutritional value of moon-grown fish fillets, according to Przybyla, there is another significant psychological benefit of a fish dish in space: “From a psychological point of view, it is better to have a memory of the Earth – you have a garden, you have a aquarium with fish ”.

Luke Roberson, a researcher at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida, agrees. Astronauts staying in the International Space Station (ISS) spend a lot of time looking after plants they have grown on board, he tells Hakai. “Add to that a fish or an invertebrate as a pet and it gives a psychological benefit. That makes it more human. ”

Designing autonomous and self-sustaining systems for space food production will be critical for future space missions, Roberson adds. The fish egg study from Przybyla and his team, he says, is “a great first step” in showing aquaculture can be a viable part of future space travel. (jvdh)

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