Last week, four Italian olive oils were sent into orbit on the International Space Station (ISS), and they are now flying at an altitude of approximately 400 kilometers above Earth.
They were brought into space by the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who returned to the ISS for her second mission, Minerva.
“This year, Samantha Cristoforetti’s return to the International Space Station, obtained through our negotiations with the ESA in the last few years, underlines, also symbolically, the importance our country has been giving to space activities for some time,” said Giorgio Saccoccia, the president of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).See Also:Olive Oil Research Updates
“I wish good luck and all the best in her work to Samantha for her new and extraordinary adventure,” he added.
As a mission specialist, Cristoforetti took on the role of USOS Lead, responsible for operations within the United States Orbital Segment of the ISS for the duration of the mission.
Moreover, during her time in orbit, she will conduct numerous experiments, covering different sectors of medicine and nutrition, including six experiments set up by ASI.
Among these, the ‘EVOO’ project is focused on balanced nutrition. It studies the impact of space environment conditions on the physio-chemical, nutritional and microbiological characteristics of extra virgin olive oil, with a specific focus on its reactions to microgravity and radiations.
Furthermore, part of the oils is intended for the preparation of the so-called bonus food, which indicates the specialties, prepared and packaged on the ground, that each astronaut can choose to bring with them to supplement the provided standard diet.
The sensory profiles and pairing suggestions are indicated on their labels: Carolea is recommended for fish, Itrana with salads, Moraiolo on the meat and Coratina to enhance the most intense flavors.
The project is the result of an agreement between the Italian Space Agency and the Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA), with the collaboration of Coldiretti and Unaprol, the Italian association of olive oil producers, which selected the high-quality extra virgin olive oils from different regions.
“Proper nutrition of astronauts is a very important health issue aboard the ISS,” said Coldiretti in a press release. “The extra virgin olive oils that we selected with Unaprol for the project share a high content of natural antioxidants, which are essential for those who, like astronauts, are subjected to conditions of intense psychophysical stress.”