Inner to Outer Space: Studying Biological Changes With Plants on Rockets (Parabolic Arc)

Inner to Outer Space: Studying Biological Changes With Plants on Rockets

What happens to the genes of organisms as they travel from the ground, through Earth’s atmosphere, and into space? Does their expression change? Are the changes subtle or dramatic? Do they happen quickly or gradually?

Answering such fundamental research questions is essential to our understanding of the impact of space travel on humans and other organisms. Two researchers from the University of Florida have been chipping away at the answers since the 1990s—using plants.

Soon, co-principal investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul, UF/IFAS department of horticultural sciences researchers, will launch their “space plants”—Arabidopsis thaliana— along with advanced cameras and sensors for imaging them on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. The flight test, facilitated by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, is the latest suborbital experiment to help the investigators further examine the cornerstone questions of two decades of biological research.

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