Giant leap for Malta: Biomedical capsule to be sent into space

A small step for a cube, a giant leap for Maltese biomedical science...

A small step for a cube, a giant leap for Maltese biomedical science, as Malta’s first foray into space will send a capsule containing a biomedical experiment to the International Space Station.

Project Maleth was announced this morning by ministers Owen Bonnici and Evarist Bartolo at a press conference streamed live on Facebook.

The project will send a “Biocube”, containing a bioscientific experiment for research on diabetic foot ulcers, into space on 18 August. The small cube will be launched from Cape Canaveral and spend 45 days in space, where the experiment will be monitored.

Professor Joseph Borg, who is spearheading this initiative, explained that the cube will contain cameras, a raspberry pi module as well as the experiment. In addition there will be a microSD card containing messages and photos received from the Maltese public.

NASA scientist Dr Afshin Beheshti said the experiment will determine potential biomarkers which will help in interplanetary travel. “In my opinion this project will lead to some new and exciting ideas leading to space biology. It’s an exciting venture and we look forward to results and hopefully make it safe to travel in deep space.”

Research and Innovation Minister Owen Bonnici thanked Borg for his vision, saying “this is a first for Malta.”

“We believe the best way forward is to bring together academia, industry and government. When these three components come together the result is very positive.”

The project is also intended to “instill national pride in the many people who care about this sector,” Bonnici said, adding that it will maximise the potential of the University of Malta. “This is work which makes every Maltese and Gozitan person proud of your work”

Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo, also speaking at the launch, said that he was initially skeptical at the idea of using space but had been won over by the science. “Diabetes is a problem. One of the good things emerging from this project will be the shedding of light on how to avoid amputations in diabetes cases.”

"Project Maleth is another testament to how, as the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs, we are committed to supporting and giving Maltese talent a chance to develop and reach its full potential on the international stage.

“We need to work with other countries. Our small size shouldn’t make us small in our aspirations, as we are not small in our talents.”

The Executive Chairman of the Malta Council for Science and Technology, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, said that “Esplora is a unique national resource that is helping to bridge the gap between the public, science and research, and is always a leader in this field. We have succeeded in achieving this through a variety of activities that stimulate curiosity and demonstrate that science is relevant to our daily lives, occupations, and active citizenship.” He added that “over the next 100 days, until the launch of project ‘Maleth’ into space, we
will be raising awareness about its experiments and related STEM careers.”