A delegation from NASA headed by Administrator Senator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Colonel (USAF, ret) Pam Melroy visited the University of Adelaide on Monday 20 March, with representatives from the US Embassy and Australian Space Agency (ASA) in attendance, including ASA Head Enrico Palermo.
The delegation was introduced to the team leading the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plants for Space (P4S).
Announced in late 2022, P4S is a seven-year (2023-2030) initiative that focuses on providing new life science solutions that are needed to support human long-term space habitation and on Earth sustainability, through an AU$90M investment from 38 world-leading research organisations via plant and food redesign.
The delegation met the P4S team, including Director, Professor Matthew Gilliham and Deputy Directors Professor Sally Gras from the University of Melbourne and Professor Melissa de Zwart from Flinders University, lead researchers and PhD students.
Aligned to the Artemis accords, and designed to feed technology into its missions, P4S and NASA, initially through Kennedy Space Centre (KSC), have partnered to develop complete nutrition solutions and on-demand bioproduction (including medicine and plastics) technologies that are needed by humans in deep space to break dependence upon resupply. These activities will also feed the rapidly growing biomanufacturing industry on Earth with more sustainable and scalable practices and inspire a new generation of STEM professionals for decades to come. The multi-disciplinary centre therefore involves skillsets as diverse as plant, food and nutrition science, psychology, process and systems engineering, law, and education to deliver its goals.
Hosted in the University of Adelaide’s Exterres Laboratory – the home to the Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources – the visit touched upon the University’s broader skills sets in supporting long term space habitation by its Director Associate Prof John Culton, including the construction of facilities on the moon and mars.