Cyano bacteria are distinguished from all other bacteria by their ability to oxygenate photosynthesis. This means that they use light energy to take carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into glucose. In this case, oxygen is produced as a waste product.
This process could be used on long missions to provide oxygen and food to astronauts. The results of the Arthrospira B experiment will show whether Arthrospira can thrive in weightlessness and under increased cosmic radiation and, in the future, as part of a so-called "life support system", can supply the vital resources of oxygen and glucose.
BIOTESC staff have spent the past two years supporting the Belgian research group Natalie Ley helps to test the experiment on Earth and to write instructions for the astronauts.
Arthrospira cyanobacteria are currently being bred in the incubator "Biolab" in the Columbus module for 4 weeks. The aim is to investigate how Arthrospira behaves under space conditions on the ISS.
The American astronaut Mark Vande Hei will regularly take samples from the culture and freeze. He is supported by BIOTESC staff from the control room in Hergiswil by radio. When the samples are back on Earth, they are analyzed by the research group.
On the ISS, astronauts still rely on the supply of oxygen and food from Earth. But this would not be possible on a Mars mission, as regular supply flights are not possible due to the large distance. That's why systems are being developed that can recycle air and water and deliver biomass.