If the UAE (United Arab Emirates) has its way, astronauts of the future could be putting their efforts into harvesting dates from palm trees on the surface of Mars aka the Red Planet.
On July 27th, a delivery to the International Space Station (ISS) by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft included materials needed for the experiments that will be conducted by Hazzaa Al Mansoori, the first UAE citizen to make it into space. Among the items were seeds from the date palm tree native to the UAE, and which are to be germinated in Space.
The project is being conducted with the College of Food and Agriculture at UAE University. The plan is to germinate the seeds while in orbit above the Earth and then bring them back down to Earth level for planting in the UAE, to see if they grow differently to seeds that have never left the planet.
The choice of date palm seeds for this experiment is due to the iconic status the plant has in the Gulf area. Images of the trees, one of the few things that can cope with the harsh desert conditions of the region, adorn the national emblems of both Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Date festivals can attract hundreds of thousands of visitors and dates are often served alongside coffee around the region.
“Palm trees are deeply rooted in our nation’s heritage and capable of thriving in harsh environments, which inspired us to launch the Palm in Space project and attempt to germinate a palm seed in space,” explained Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, director-general of the UAE Space Agency.
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