Space Cargo Unlimited debuts the third space experiment of Mission WISE in partnership with CNES and ESA.

320 vine canes will remain 6 months on the ISS to explore the future of vine, wine and agriculture on Earth.

After sending red wine to the International Space Station in November and successfully proof-testing the “Self-Guided Evolution” research methodology in suborbital space in December 2019, Space Cargo Unlimited shipped 320 canes on the ISS for a six-month period. The results from this experiment will advance knowledge on how vine plants can adapt to climate change on Earth, with high potential applications for the future of agriculture.

Cape Canaveral – March 6, 2020 – Today at 11:50 pm, Space Cargo Unlimited, European “New Space” startup, successfully launched the third experiment of its ambitious program, Mission WISE, with a payload of 320 canes  flying to the ISS on a Falcon9/Dragon (SpaceX). Under the name CANES, 320 vine plants of 40 mm each will remain in space for six months, the longest period ever for such scientific research.

As the keystone of Mission WISE, the first comprehensive, privately led applied research program in space, CANES aims to reveal the future of agriculture through the research methodology named “Self-Guided Evolution”, and in partnership with the CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Scientifiques, Toulouse), ISVV (Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin, Bordeaux), and ESA (European Space Agency).

CANES will take advantage of the accelerated development of plants in an environment with little or no gravity (i.e.microgravity), and higher radiation exposure. Mobilizing their defenses when threatened by changes in their environment, plants undergo severe biological changes. ISVV will analyze the differences between returning canes with similar specimens that stayed on earth to identify these mutations and to stabilize the adapted strains. Space Cargo Unlimited’s focus on vine and wine as a proxy for agricultural evolution at large is motivated by the extended knowledge developed around wine since ancestral times, the role it played in previous scientific breakthroughs, such as Louis Pasteur discovering the existence of bacteria.

Another reason for choosing wine as a proxy relies on the fact that like many cultures, wine is on the verge of being a victim of global warming¹. Grapes are extremely sensitive to change in temperature and season. In the 1970s, chaptalization, which stimulates malolactic fermentation, increases degrees of alcohol from 11 to 12. A decade later, chaptalization was no longer needed: climate was already getting warmer, producing sweeter grapes and Bordeaux wines containing 14 to 15 degrees of alcohol. Without action, in 40 years, Bordeaux wines as we know them will disappear.

Ligneous plants are critical for our alimentation. They have never been studied in such a long-term period or in space,” Remarks PD Dr. Michael Lebert, Department of Cell Biology, FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg University (Germany) and Chief Scientist Officer of Space Cargo Unlimited. “We are pioneering a new way to study the impact of microgravity and accelerated evolution in plants and their dormant organs, such as seeds.” Adds Lebert. “This could be a game-changer in unlocking the agriculture of tomorrow.

CANES will lead to discovering how to produce wine in harsher environments, and more importantly, how to adapt agriculture to the climate of tomorrow, following the “Self-Guided Evolution” research methodology that was successfully proof-tested in the past experience, ALPHA.

CANES is a defining experiment focusing on the most relevant types of plant materials growing on earth we can study. And Vine is particularly interesting when it comes to an understanding of the dangers which more generally strike the plants used for our food.“ Says Nicolas Gaume, CEO and Co-Founder of Space Cargo Unlimited with Emmanuel Etcheparre. “We will learn by creating a situation that accelerates mutations and epigenetic changes,“ Adds Gaume. “This is a project we could have never realized without our partnership with CNES, their Cadmos lab and the amazing research team at ISVV, with director Philippe Darriet and lead researcher Stéphanie Cluzet. We are very thrilled for their support.

During a six-month period, two types of vines, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon canes, will be stored on the International Space Station. The experiment consists of mature pruning canes of the year with dormant buds, which are alive and in a hibernation mode. Consequently, they do not need any nutrient supplementation or watering, only an important humidity (70/80%) with a relatively low temperature (between 0.5 to 8 °C) in the dark. These conditions correspond to the way of storing pruning canes on Earth in order to obtain grapevine cuttings (growing plants).

Space Cargo Unlimited mission WISE program is developing new models and technology to tackle the future of agriculture and food by leveraging the effect of microgravity on complex biological systems. Mission WISE is the first comprehensive, privately led applied research program in space, aimed at reinventing the future of agriculture.

About Space Cargo Unlimited.
Founded in 2014, Space Cargo Unlimited is a European startup founded by highly regarded private investors and space-enthusiast entrepreneurs. Fostered by the new space dynamic, with technological advances and falling costs of access to space, leveraging the high level of European space industry expertise, Space Cargo Unlimited is dedicated to seizing the potential of microgravity research and manufacturing for commercial applications on Earth. Building strategic partnerships with space operators, Space Cargo Unlimited develops comprehensive expertise in complex microgravity project management to nurture innovative and useful initiatives. Targeted applied microgravity work will help envision how to face the challenge of new Agriculture, Health and Food. Space Cargo Unlimited with its subsidiary Space Biology Unlimited aims to be a catalyst for new commercial dynamics in Europe and the US to create momentum to attract private companies and entrepreneurs to invest massively into microgravity research. Headquartered in Luxembourg, Space Cargo Unlimited operates with teams and partners in Bordeaux and Toulouse (France), Erlangen Nuremberg (Germany), Torino (Italy), Houston & Seattle (USA). Partners include ESA, CNES, FAU (Erlangen, Germany) and ISVV (Bordeaux, France) Universities.

For more information​

[1] Publication released on February 11, 2020 by PNSA proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States – Authors include Ignacio Morales-Castilla, Iñaki García de Cortázar-Atauri, Benjamin I. Cook, Thierry Lacombe, Amber Parker,  Cornelis van Leeuwen, Kimberly A. Nicholas, and Elizabeth M. Wolkovich

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