Story By: Eman El-Sherbiny, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
The United Arab Emirates is blasting palm trees to space with the help of Elon Musk’s SpaceX amid plans to plant them on Mars and solve food shortages as climate change takes hold.
The country is set to send the seeds to the International Space Station this week in a bid to find out how they fare in space with a view to growing them on Mars.
According to local media, the launch will be aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, in the US and the rocket will carry the Dragon’s Space 18th mission for its resupply mission to the ISS, this Wednesday, 24th July.
The seeds will be planted aboard the International Space Station before being sent back to Earth to find out whether it will be possible to grow palm trees on the Red planet.
The UAE is the 2nd exporter of dates – which grow on palm trees – in the world, according to the International Trade Centre.
Experts believe climate change will hamper food production on earth due to rising soil temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.
The move is part of a bid to cultivate additional food sources in space for use on Earth as climate change makes growth more difficult, according to local media.
Speaking about the mission, Dr Khalid Al Hashimi, Director of the Department of Space Tasks at Emirates Space Agency told local media: “The national space sector has reached advanced stages that will enable it to launch the most complex research projects and the most difficult in this field.”
Palm trees were chosen to pay homage to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founding father and the former ruler of Abu Dhabi, who wanted the Emirates to be the world’s leading country in planting palm trees.
The launch is part of the aerospace manufacturer, SpaceX’s agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration agency (NASA), and is organised by NanoRacks, a company providing services to space missions.
The experiment and research are part of the Palm Experiment in Space, a collaboration between the College of Food and Agriculture at the University of the United Arab Emirates and NanoRacks in order to cultivate palm trees in space.
NanoRacks will also oversee the mission’s safety and record data on how palm seeds (nuclei) react to space and loss of gravity, in the world’s first scientific experiment of its kind.
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