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Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Reaches Space Station

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 27, 2022
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ROME (ASI PR) — The samples of Italian extra virgin olive oil have reached the International Space Station, thanks to a project included in the framework of the agreement between the Italian Space Agency and CREA, in collaboration with Coldiretti and Unaprol-Consorzio Olivicolo Italiano.

As part of its role as National Agency, ASI promoted the project and, in the context of its institutional relations with other Space Agencies and as a country participating in the ISS program, made available the opportunity to fly and coordination with ESA necessary for the implementation of the experiment.

The collaboration with Coldiretti and Unaprol-Consorzio Olivicolo Italiano aims to underline the importance of the Italian agri-food heritage and to enhance and sensitize an asset for the country’s exports, as well as to promote the principles of proper nutrition.

Italy has a record in the world for its agrobiodiversity and quality with more than 500 varieties of olive trees and 250 million plants, boasting the largest number of extra virgin olive oils with designation of origin in Europe, an average national production of over 300 million chili and a supply chain that includes over 400,000 specialized farms.

The scientific implications of the project will be monitored by the CREA Olivicoltura Frutticoltura e Agrumicoltura Center, based in Rende, Calabria, which is investing heavily to provide solutions that make Italian extra virgin olive oil increasingly competitive and appreciated.

The project aims to study, through an original and unprecedented experiment, the effects of staying in space on the chemical-physical, sensory and nutritional characteristics of extra virgin olive oil. Samples of extra virgin olive oil will be brought back to Earth after 6, 12 and 18 months respectively to be analyzed and compared with those of the controls left on the ground. In particular, the experiment will investigate how the composition of secondary metabolites — phenols and tocopherols (vitamin E) — is influenced by microgravity and radiations present in space and will serve to gather new information on the stability of EVOO and on the shelf life. in spatial environmental conditions. The project will also investigate how the type of containers currently used on board the ISS affects the product.

The samples of EVO oil join the four selected extra virgin olive oils that are part of the “bonus food” chosen, as part of the Minerva mission, by ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who made her first spacewalk yesterday, and by the others crew members. These oils share a high content of natural antioxidants and, in particular, of phenols from the olive tree which are essential for those who, like astronauts, are subjected to conditions of intense psycho-physical stress. These are Italian products of the highest quality, coming from different regions, and each obtained from a single variety, representing the immense wealth of biodiversity that makes our country unique.

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