this start-up from Cantal wants to plant forests on the moon

this start-up from Cantal wants to plant forests on the moon
this start-up from Cantal wants to plant forests on the moon

Pleaux, a small Cantal village of 1,500 inhabitants with its medieval streets, its turreted houses, its green hills…. and its FabLab. Since the arrival of fiber, the town has housed a manufacturing laboratory equipped with cutting-edge equipment. Among the innovative projects, The Spring Institute for Forests on the Moon, an association founded in October 2022, which operates as a start-up.

Its objective: to allow life to develop sustainably beyond planet Earth. But before targeting the rocky star that is the Moon, we must study the conditions for the development of vegetation here on earth, then in space.

This somewhat crazy project, Louise Fleischer, graduate of Polytechnique anda master’s degree in aerospace sciences at Stanford (United States), chose to develop it on her grandmother’s land in Cantal, where she set up her laboratory.

“Our subject of study is the stars and nature. It is not in the big cities that we will find either. And then, all we need is a good internet connection because many of our meetings are done online,” explains the 30-year-old young woman who is developing this project with two partners, Anatole Trepos and Florian Marmuse.

“We know that we will not see the result in our lifetime”

The idea for the young company is to understand, but also to be able to reproduce and export what would allow humans to live well and in the long term on lunar bases or on Mars.

“When Thomas Pesquet is in the space station, he breathes thanks to machines, we on Earth, it is thanks to plants. We are therefore interested in how we could have plants in space that can reproduce this system. There are also other organisms, microbes and fungi… We are therefore studying what balances must be put in place to allow humans to live outside of planet Earth,” summarizes the scientist.

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If its ultimate ambition is to develop forests on the Moon (as its name The Spring Institute for Forests on the Moon indicates), the road to achieving this is still long… very, very long. “We are committed to a 300-year mission. We know that we will not see the result in our lifetime,” recognizes Louise Fleischer.

“CubeSats” containing terrariums

For now, The Spring Institute for Forests on the Moon is experimenting on a small scale. Supported by the Pleaux town hall for premises and machines, the laboratory has won research contracts with the European Space Agency (ESA). He is now developing “CubeSats”, cubic mini-satellites that can contain aquariums or terrariums.

“Our Scampi mission concerns an aquarium containing algae, shrimp and microbes. We know that they live in equilibrium in this closed ecosystem and that the shrimp can live for at least ten years. We are going to send this aquarium to the ISS (the international space station) to study the effect of weightlessness and the impact of the launch,” explains the aerospace engineer.

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The project was, in fact, selected as part of the Petri program, which sends student experiments aboard the International Space Station. The launch, funded by the European Space Agency, is planned for next year.

The start-up’s other project, Plant-B, is less advanced. This time it will concern a terrestrial ecosystem in a terrarium. The objective is to send this satellite which contains moss, small insects and microbial flora into orbit around the Earth.

“We will thus be able to observe how the container reacts to environmental parameters and in particular to extreme temperature differences. Clearly, we will try to see if this space greenhouse is capable of maintaining an environment conducive to the survival of the ecosystem,” specifies Louise Fleischer.

This second mission will require fundraising of 500,000 euros which should be launched at the end of the year.

Two Cantal colleges are participating

These “CubeSats” have interesting characteristics for space research. In addition to their possible disintegration in the atmosphere, they have a relatively low manufacturing cost and their construction is rapid due to the standardization of this format.

Two Cantal colleges are also working on their own “CubeSats”. The start-up, in fact, hosts conferences and workshops for fourth and third grade students. They were able to create their own terrarium. Two of these “CubeSats” (soon to be three in June) were sent to an altitude of more than 30 kilometers on stratospheric balloons.

“We hope in this way to encourage vocations and train future generations…”, underlines the founder of the start-up. Because it is they, or their children, who will be led to continue this exciting long-term adventure.

This educational dimension is part of the very DNA of the structure which has a hybrid model: that of an association for democratization activities and that of a laboratory for the scientific part, allowing it to respond to calls for projects of research agencies.

International seminar in Pleaux

To carry out her project, Louise Fleischer works in close collaboration with scientists from around the world and even with NASA.

“In our advisory committee, for example, we have a NASA project manager responsible for plant experiments on the ISS, the international space station. Our start-up is in fact multidisciplinary, we certainly have scientists and engineers, but there are also biologists, anthropologists, philosophers and school teachers… We are 70 people from 25 different nationalities,” says Louise Fleischer. .

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Moreover, some of the members of the association, all volunteers, will be gathered in Pleaux this weekend and the following for an international seminar around two themes: arts and interculturality in space, but also self-sufficiency of the Earth at the moon. Workshops and conferences, open to all, are on the program with a key speaker, Géraldine Naja, director of marketing at the European Space Agency. With the aim of introducing people to the start-up and its work.

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