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The agricultural census stands a good chance to settle into orbit



The entire world marks the Day of Aviation and Cosmonautics on April 12.Yuri Gagarin’s flight opened a new era in space exploration and the development of a number of scientific disciplines and industries. The agriculture has not turned out to be an exception. How far have the Russian scientists and cosmonauts managed to advance in the course of production of agricultural products in the orbit? What is under cultivation in space greenhouses and incubators today? Would the crops be taken in account in the course of forthcoming agricultural census? These questions will be discussed in the festive material of the ARAC-2016 Press-Center.

The conquest of the outer space was inextricably linked to the researches in the field of space biology and physiology from the very beginning. Spacebotanics are even older than manned cosmonautics; the first seeds of agricultural plants have appeared in space in 1960 along with the dogs named Belka and Strelka. The era of the manned space flights opened on April 12, 1961 by launching the spacecraft “Vostok” with the citizen of the USSR senior lieutenant Yuri Gagarin on board has propelled the space researches to a new level of quality. Since then, the experiments with higher plants were carried out on board of all the native orbital stations.

The most extensive studies were carried out on board the orbital complex “Mir”. It was on board of that complex the first in the world’s automatic greenhouse “Svet” was created in the frameworks of the “Intercosmos” program in close cooperation with scientists from Bulgaria. Prior to that there were greenhouses operating on orbit, but none of them was automatic.

In the period from1990 to2000 the Russian cosmonauts conducted 6 experiments on growing lettuce and other salad crops as well as radish and wheat. The experience acquired has allowed the scientists of the Institute of Biomedical Problems of RAS (IBP RAS) in the shortest period of time to develop and create greenhouse “Lada” for conducting experiments with higher plants on board the Russian segment of ISS (international Space Station).

In parallel there were experiments carried out on breeding highly organized forms of life in space. Their subject became Japanese quails. The very first experiment with the quail’s eggs under the conditions of space flight was conducted in the year 1979 on board the “Cosmos-1129” biosatellite in the “Incubator-1” installation. At the end of the study, researchers concluded that the gravity-free state does not interfere with the development of life forms.

For conducting further experiments a new installation named “Incubator-2” was built on board the “Mir” complex. It was this installation where on March 22, 1990 on orbit was the first living creature bred. The creature was a quail. Unfortunately, none of the newly hatched chicks did survive then; all efforts of the crew to save them ended in vain, but this sad experience was taken into account in the future.

Already in August 1990 adults of the Japanese quail furnished with special fixing “spacesuits” were sent. After completing the study program, they returned to earth safely; lived for a long time and produced an offspring. In the process of the next experiment in the year 1992, 6 chicks were bred on orbit. They were fixed and returned to the Earth.

From 2002 to 2011, in the “Lada” greenhouse Russian cosmonauts conducted 17 experiments with pea plant, wheat, barley, radish and salad crops. One of the most significant results is acquiring 4 successive generations of pea. Thus, again, for the first time in the world, it has been proved that the crops can be grown under space flight conditions without loss of their reproductive function and form viable seeds for a long time comparable to the duration of Mars mission.

In the end of 2014 cosmonaut Elena Serova conducted her own experiment on germinating apple tree seeds under the conditions of gravity-free state. Despite the absence of a greenhouse only thanks to the sunlight and damp gauze she managed to produce an apple tree sprig in space for the first time in the world.

Currently, according to Roscosmos, IBP RAS completes works on creation of a new generation of greenhouse device “Lada-2”. It is planned that the new greenhouse will be delivered to the station in late 2016 – early 2017.

“New generation device “Lada-2” will allow us to continue experiments on research of higher plants on orbital stations, which were started earlier with the use of the greenhouses of the previous generation such as: “Malakhit”, “Lyutic”, “Oazis”, “Fiton”, “Svet” and “Lada”, – explained the editor of the “Novosty Cosmonavtiki” Andrey Krasilnikov to the ARAC-2016 Press-Center.

As you know, in summer of 2016 the entire domestic agricultural sector will encounter the large-scale event, i.e. the All-Russian Agricultural Census. And in this connection a natural question arises: can we consider cosmonauts-researchers to be the producers of agricultural products will the results of their labor be somehow taken into account in the process of the forthcoming agricultural census?

The ARAC-2016 Press-Center has asked the Rosstat Deputy Head of Department on Arrangement and Conduction of Census and Continuous Surveys Irina Zhuravlyova to comment upon the situation.

“In the process of the All-Russian Agricultural Census animals and crops grown on orbit will not be subjected to census as space incubators and greenhouses are not objects of census” – she explained. – “The Law on agricultural census clearly determines categories of the producers of agricultural products subjected to the census. They are as follows: agricultural organizations, farms, personal households and other individual households of citizens, fruit growing, vegetable growing and cottage non-commercial entities of the citizens.

However, it is possible that the “space agricultural census” is a matter of not such a distant future. As it was stated recently by the Roscosmos manned space program director Sergey Krikalyov landing on the moon is planned till the year 2030 and in the period till the year 2035 lunar station will start to be assembled. So it is possible that already in the year 2036 in the process of regular agricultural census the lunar greenhouses and incubators, being agricultural enterprises under Russian jurisdiction, will be taken into account in the State Statistics along with the Earth objects.

While preparing the material the data from the Roscosmos, magazine “Novosti Cosmonavtiki” and site “Apisody Cosmonavtiki” were used.