Plant Biology in Space

Who doesn't want to be an astronaut? Flying away from the earth, heading towards moon or Mars. It's certainly the dream of every kid, even some of the grown-up unless they start to give up their dreams and hopes! And, there are reasons why at a certain age and stage people start believing that being-an-astronaut-dream doesn't valid anymore because, in the movies and traditional setup, it has been showing that mathematician, computer programmers, physicists are way ahead of other disciplines to become an astronaut and flying away. 

It's time to come out of this concept and look at the perspective through a different lens. Think about that, you are going back and forth between earth and other planets, testing whether there is the existence of life and so on. All this research leads to find out whether there is a way of habitats, which broadly emphasis on LIFE. If we are thinking about start living to Mars, we have to make sure that the other form of life can survive, we would be able to manage water and food. Food source includes both animal and plant source. And, it's rational to think about plant source, because if there is soil - water - ambient temperature - light, we can grow whatever we need to. Here comes the role of plant biologists and time to re-culture your dream to become an astronaut!  


 Astronauts grew and ate red lettuce on the ISS as part of the Veggie experiment


In recent years, NASA has started to explore in this regard and emphasized on plant biology program extensively. Their program is helping to study the plant growth at the molecular level using transcriptomics, genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. Interestingly, the basic plant research has already enabled them to grow lettuce and cabbage in the Internation Space Station (ISS). This is definitely good news for astronauts as they always rely on processed or canned foods in the ISS. In extension, they are hoping to add mizuna and tomato on this list. 

If you are a plant biologist, it an extraordinary opportunity to contribute beyond the earth and live a rockstar life. This year NASA has funded 7 plant biology projects to explore microgravity, photosynthesis, plant-microbe interaction, stress response, calcium signaling, post-transcriptional regulation. The funded projects and PIs are mentioned below:

Robert Ferl, Ph.D., University of Florida, Gainesville
The role of Ca2+ signaling during the early events of plant adaptation to spaceflight

Anjali Iyer-Pascuzzi, Ph.D., Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Effect of spaceflight and simulated microgravity on plant defense responses

Christer Jansson, Ph.D., Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington
C4 Photosynthesis in Space (C4Space)

Norman Lewis, Ph.D., Washington State University, Pullman
Dissecting beneficial plant-microbe interactions and their efficacy in the ISS spaceflight environment, a model study

Gioia Massa, Ph.D., NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Spaceflight microbiome of a food crop grown using different substrate moisture levels

Patrick Masson, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison
Can polyamines mitigate plant stress response under microgravity conditions?

Sarah Wyatt, Ph.D., Ohio University, Athens
Spaceflight alters post-transcriptional regulation    

Find out more about NASA's space biology and plant biology programs from the following links:




If you are a plant biologist,
Why not contribute beyond the earth?

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