The University of Malta has launched a crowdfunding campaign on online crowdfunding platform Zaar, offering supporters the opportunity to be part of Project Maleth, Malta’s first mission to outer space.
The historic project, which begins in August 2021, involves sending a ‘biocube’ containing human skin microbiome samples obtained by PhD candidate Ms. Christine Gatt, up to the International Space Station, where it will be monitored for 50 to 60 days before returning to Earth. The bioscientific experiment, is set up by the University of Malta and funded by the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and two private companies – Evolve Ltd. and Arkafort – and is facilitated by the Research, Innovation and Development Trust (RIDT) of the University. It will gather data on samples from patients with diabetic foot ulcers both on Earth and in microgravity.
Malta has the third highest diabetes case rate in Europe, with 12.2% of the population suffering from the disease. Approximately 400 amputations are performed in Malta each year and the mortality rates of diabetic amputees within five years of surgery is at 70%. The investigation aims to improve outcomes for patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.
“This truly is a first step for Maltese science, and Malta in general”, explains Professor Joseph Borg, Associate Professor of Applied Biomedical Science at the University of Malta, who is spearheading this project. “We do not know yet what the effects of microgravity and solar radiation will be on both the human skin cells and the microbiome, but the past experience of other research groups has shown that the environment of space instigates a host of different changes to the cell and molecular machinery. Ultimately, any new information that we get can assist greatly in improving molecular and precision medicine for treating diabetic ulcers as well as lessons learnt for other conditions”.
“The biocube has now been assembled, packed and sent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre”, Professor Borg shares. “From there, it will be prepared for launch on a SpaceX rocket. In addition to the scientific experiment, we have around 1,000 contributions from various children and organisations all over Malta that include songs, poems and artwork. In this digital age the sky has been no limit for us, and neither should it be for the population”.
The money raised through Zaar’s campaign will contribute to Malta’s future missions to outer space, while enabling supporters to be a part of Malta’s maiden space voyage. Contributors are invited to offer their input on future scientific missions and can even pledge to send a personalised message up to space as part of Project Maleth.
“As Malta’s only crowdfunding platform we are proud and honoured to be part of Malta’s first mission to space”, said Matthew Caruana, the Manager of Zaar. “Over the years Zaar has helped several projects reach fruition and has been a catalyst for people to achieve their goals. Project Maleth is a momentous mission and a feather in Malta’s cap as we enter a new and unexplored sector for the science and space community.
“From as little as €10 your name will forever be associated with Project Maleth. Every donation is attached to a reward that allows people to be involved with the project as they can receive exclusive merchandise, get tours of the science laboratory and even be present for the launch of the biocube. By donating, people will be contributing towards Malta’s scientific progress as well as medical progress,” adds Mr Caruana.
Tech company Arkafort is supporting the project through its experts and resources. Though this collaboration, the Arkafort team will be building a mission control system, connected to the International Space Station, in order to capture the data produced. Arkafort engineers will be building a software through which data – both that produced at the International Space Station and at the labs based at the University of Malta –can then be analysed by the research team.
To be part of this historic event and support Malta’s space missions, visit Zaar’s crowdfunding page at https://zaar.com.mt/projects/maleth-maltas-space-mission/. Anybody wanting to simply send their names without any message or rewards can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more about Malta’s first space mission at https://www.spaceomix.com/.