Dubai: Attempts by the UAE to germinate a palm tree in space are now underway after seeds reached the International Space Station (ISS) via the Falcon 9 rocket launched by SpaceX from Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA, on Thursday.
Entitled ‘Palm in Space’, the first of its kind experiment is part of continued efforts by the UAE to contribute towards international food security. The arrival of the seeds comes ahead of Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri’s trip to the ISS on September 25, during which he will become the first Emirati in space.
The project is a collaboration between the UAE Space Agency, the College of Food and Agriculture at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) and NanoRacks.
The experiment aims to advance understanding of cultivation and agriculture in space.
A parallel experiment will be conducted at the College of Food and Agriculture at UAEU, to enable scientists to compare and analyse the difference in growth between seeds grown in space and those that remained on Earth.
The seeds sent to the ISS will eventually be returned to Earth and planted at UAEU to enable this comparison and further study.
Dr Khalid Al Hashimi, Director of Space Missions, Science and Technology at the UAE Space Agency, said: “We are very proud to announce the safe arrival of the unique ‘Palm in Space’ experiment to the International Space Station. This experiment is the result of our tireless efforts to advance our national space sector and further demonstrates to the international space community our commitment to working together to explore space and tackle some of humanity’s greatest challenges.
“We chose to send palm tree seeds to the International Space Station both because of their importance to the UAE’s culture and heritage, as well as the fact that they are able to withstand the harshest of conditions and are often planted in circumstances that resemble aspects of the Martian environment,” he added.
Professor Bhanu Chowdhary, Dean of the College of Food and Agriculture at UAEU, emphasised the significance of the ongoing collaboration between UAEU and the UAE Space Agency in furthering scientific research into food security.
“At the College of Food and Agriculture at UAEU, the ‘University of the Future’, we seek to develop and deploy new technologies with the aim of achieving food security, specifically in the UAE, taking into consideration that climate and environmental changes will impact the provision of food for the people of the world,” said Professor Chowdhary.
Jeffrey Manber, CEO of NanoRacks, the leading provider of commercial access to low-Earth orbit, said: “The UAE will be represented for the first time on the ISS as a leading and aspiring country in this field, and what better ambassador than growing palm tree seeds from the UAE that hold a special place in Emirati hearts and minds and are a symbol of the country’s heritage.”