Biology and chemistry are the key to survival in space. Therefore Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and Airbus look for technology and business innovations in order to preserve the space environment for the future and make life in space a feasible option. No matter if it comes to nutrition, staying healthy or the recycling of air and water – life in space is depending on innovations from the field of life science. Startups, young companies and research spin-offs may apply for the Sustainable Exploration Challenge by September 8. This is not a challenge for space-startups only! Technologies improving life on Earth might also be milestones for life in space. The countdown is on, apply here

Some people may be asking: why is the field of life science so important for space exploration and a possible future human life in space? Isn’t it rather about building robots, rovers or rockets? – The answer is ‘no’. Only innovations and findings in life science can help to make the basis for life in space possible. Without life science, survival in space could not be possible as astronauts need nutrition, air and water to stay healthy. Even more challenging is the scarcity of those life-enabling resources. Recycling methods and an overall sustainable approach are essential in these circumstances.

Topic areas of the Sustainable Exploration Challenge by Airbus and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Self-sufficiency by indoor-farming in space
When it comes to nutrition, indoor-farming is the key. A mission to Mars would not be possible without growing plants in space stations. Self-sufficiency must be guaranteed as it is very expensive and inefficient to bring all of the food from Earth to space. The more we grow in space, the more ballast can be saved during the flight. Space missions can take up to several years. Therefore, in order to make human life in space possible, large amounts of food will need to be grown locally.

Healthcare millions of kilometers away from Earth
Even in space several disease lurk around and the issue of nuclear radiation is not yet solved. Since space missions take quite long, astronauts need to stay healthy for more than one and a half years. The ISS already researched a lot about the challenges of weightlessness to the human body and astronauts undergo intensive trainings. However, it is impossible to predict what illnesses an astronaut might contract. One cannot take medicine for every disease that could break out within a long lasting mission to Mars and other expeditions. The research field of individualized medicine could be the key for this issue as astronauts would be able take raw medicine material and print the pills they need using a 3D Printer for example. Medical innovations like these would also improve future individualized patient treatments on Earth.

Recycling of air and water
Two crucial elements of life are water and air. As both of these are hard to find in space, methods are needed in order to recycle the oxygen out of carbon dioxide. The same applies to water. Astronauts are living in closed systems where resources need to be recycled as much as possible. Questions like “how can drug residues be filtered out of waste water?” and “how can carbon dioxide be recycled most effectively?” are still waiting for answers. The latter is also interesting when it comes to life on Earth. Capturing and reforming carbon dioxide could be the key to win the fight against climate change.

As we can see, issues in space are similar to issues we have on Earth. Innovations in life science which tackle problems like climate change or sustainable crop production can also be the next steps in space exploration. So even if you work in a startup not operating in space industry you might hold the solution. Take the chance to get support from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, Airbus and ESA who are cross-industry partners. Let space and life science experts from two industry leaders help you solve your technical problem within an expert workshop! Develop your business innovation further, even if it does not end up being used for space exploration:

Your life science project excites us! The application period ends on September 8. So do not wait for too long to submit your application here.
Take 15 minutes to let us know about your startup, research-spin-off or young company!