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First ever Maltese space mission

A blood agar plate showing colonies of bacteria taken from a human skin swab
A blood agar plate showing colonies of bacteria taken from a human skin swab
A blood agar plate showing colonies of bacteria taken from a human skin swab

Being the ‘first of its kind’ in many ways is for sure true for Project MALETH, launched to the ISS in August 2021. The first ever Maltese space experiment has been conducted on our modular ICE Cubes platform, and has marked the first of possibly many such space missions for this island nation.

The research, led by Prof. Joseph Borg of the University of Malta, aims to expand current knowledge regarding the human skin microbiome by analysing diabetic foot ulcer samples using state-of-the-art molecular biology techniques. The microbial samples were co-cultured under both terrestrial (analog) and space-based conditions to compare the adaptive changes potentially taking place in this novel off-world environment. All samples have been analysed in a multi-omic manner, so as to acquire maximum output with the resultant biological ‘big data’ sets.

This mission saw the first time launch of a new ‘ScienceCube’, a modular experimental Cube developed by ICE Cubes service for both scientific and educational projects. This flight allowed also to assess the technology in a validation mission, paving the way for other novel and ambitious research to take place in the future.

Photo credit: SpaceOMIX (Blood agar plate showing colonies of bacteria taken from a human skin swab, Univ. of Malta, Dept. of Pathology, Bacteriology Laboratory)

360 days
from very first contact until return of the samples to the lab

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