Extra Virgin Olive Oils Will Be Sent to Space in 2022

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will bring seven extra virgin olive oils for her crew to enjoy with their meals and to see how the oils hold up in space.

NASA
Dec 15, 2021 8:51 AM EST
By Paolo DeAndreis
NASA

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Next spring, a selec­tion of Italian extra vir­gin olive oils will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS).

The oils will be brought to the ISS, located about 400 kilo­me­ters above Earth’s sur­face, by Italian astro­naut Samantha Cristoforetti, the com­man­der of the mis­sion.

I would not for­get to bring olive oil with me, which also gives fla­vor to any­thing, even to the rehy­drated sal­ads that we eat up here.- Samantha Cristoforetti, Astronaut

Supporters of the ini­tia­tive hope to study how the prod­uct holds up in space and pro­mote olive oil cul­ture.

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The Italian Space Agency con­firmed that the astro­nauts would con­sume the extra vir­gin olive oils with their meals. One of the oils will be used to study the impact of being in space on olive oil qual­ity.

High doses of radi­a­tion (both cos­mic and solar) in space could mod­ify some ele­ments of the oil. At the same time, the lack of grav­ity, also called a micro-grav­ity envi­ron­ment, might also cause the oils to coa­lesce and aggre­gate.

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As part of her small stash of food that astro­nauts are allowed to bring with them to the ISS to con­tribute to their stan­dard mis­sion diet, Cristoforetti chose three mono­va­ri­etal extra vir­gin olive oils, made from the tra­di­tional Italian cul­ti­vars: Frantoio, Bosana and Biancolilla.

Additionally, Unaprol, the Italian olive pro­duc­ers’ con­sor­tium and one of the project part­ners, said four sep­a­rate mono­va­ri­etal extra vir­gin olive oils would be offered to other astro­nauts with spe­cific meals.

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Samantha Cristoforetti (NASA/Robert Markowitz)

A Coratina is meant to enhance meals with a robust fla­vor, while the Moraiolo was cho­sen for use with meat. The Itrana mono­va­ri­etal will be used for their sal­ads and Carolea for fish. Each extra vir­gin olive oil con­tainer will be labeled with its best food pair­ings.

The extra vir­gin olive oils that will be sent to the ISS are of the high­est qual­ity, com­ing from dif­fer­ent regions of Italy,” Nicola di Noia, Unaprol’s gen­eral direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times.

The seven extra vir­gin olive oils, three des­tined to the bonus food and four to astro­naut’s meals, have been cho­sen among tens of tested sam­ples because of their chem­i­cal-phys­i­cal and organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics,” he added.

Di Noia said that monocul­ti­var extra vir­gin olive oils were selected over blends to demon­strate the organolep­tic qual­i­ties of dif­fer­ent olive vari­eties, all of which are char­ac­ter­ized by a very high nat­ural antiox­i­dant pro­file.”

According to the Italian Council for Agricultural Research and Agricultural Economy Analysis (CREA), which is among the part­ners in the project, the 50-mil­li­liter plas­tic bot­tles used for stor­ing the extra vir­gin olive oils will be the same con­tain­ers used on the ISS for other foods.

The con­tain­ers will also be used to store the extra vir­gin olive oil sam­ples that have been selected to be the focus of the spe­cific sci­en­tific exper­i­ment that will be car­ried on the International Space Station,” Enzo Perri, the direc­tor of the CREA research cen­ter for olives, fruit and cit­rus crops, told Olive Oil Times.

The exper­i­ment will allow researchers to under­stand how olive oil con­tents and pro­file might change in space. Some extra vir­gin olive oil sam­ples will be brought back to Earth after six months, 12 months and 18 months on the ISS.

We will use the same food con­tain­ers used for all other foods on the ISS because that will allow us to estab­lish changes that occurred in nor­mal oper­at­ing con­di­tions,” Perri said.

Back on Earth, the inter­na­tional sci­en­tific team will study the chem­i­cal pro­files of each extra vir­gin olive oil sam­ple to estab­lish pos­si­ble changes that took place in space, Perri said. The oils will also be tasted to deter­mine how their qual­ity was impacted by the time spent in space.

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Cristoforetti is a strong sup­porter of a bal­anced diet. Sharing her expe­ri­ence with food on the ISS in 2015, she explained how rel­e­vant it is to con­sume the best fats in her diet. She specif­i­cally praised avo­cado, mack­erel and extra vir­gin olive oil.

I would not for­get to bring olive oil with me, which also gives fla­vor to any­thing, even to the rehy­drated sal­ads that we eat up here,” she said.

The Italian Space Agency empha­sized the impor­tance of the prin­ci­ples behind a nutri­tional diet.

Those are basic prin­ci­ples in space, where the cor­rect food intake is a major issue for health aboard the ISS,” the agency said. Many sci­en­tific papers have proved the health ben­e­fits of extra vir­gin olive oil con­sump­tion.”

The extra vir­gin olive oils selected by Coldiretti and Unaprol all share a high antiox­i­dant pro­file which is specif­i­cally rel­e­vant for those who are fac­ing psy­chophys­i­cal intense stress­ing con­di­tions, such as astro­nauts,” the agency added.

Samantha Cristoforetti is sched­uled to arrive on the ISS on April 15, 2022, in a SpaceX Dragon cap­sule.



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