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Scientists Design Out-of-This-World Experiment

Posted July 12, 2007

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— North Carolina State University scientists will launch a new experiment next month – literally.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour will carry tomato seeds being designed by university researchers to the International Space Station to measure microgravity's effects on plants.

"When you look at astronauts, they're floating around everywhere because they don't have gravity. What do plants do?" said Heike Winter Sederoff, an assistant professor of plant biology.

On Earth, plants can sense gravity, so their roots grow downward and their stems shoot upward toward the light, Sederoff said. But that changes in the limited gravity of space, she said.

"They really don't know very well where down and up are," she said.

If scientists know how and why the plants react, they might be able to manipulate plants on Earth by adding genes to make them stronger, said Mariya V. Khodakovskaya, a research associate at N.C. State.

"(We could make them) resistant to different types of stresses," Khodakovskaya said.

Astronauts are expected to send images of the plants back to N.C. State so researchers can monitor their progress.

"It's an experiment. If we knew the outcome, we wouldn't do it," Sederoff said.

9 Comments

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  • ladyblue Jul 14, 2007

    Capitol punishment: thanks I really wasn't aware of that. I would love to go into space one time to see waht it's like to leave our atmosphere.

  • Capital Punishment Stops Crime Jul 14, 2007

    The space station stays in sunlight constantly since it does not rotate the way the earth does. I'm sure the station has a few windows they could use for the plants. Would be a shame to travel all that distance to be in space and not get a view.

  • ladyblue Jul 13, 2007

    I'd like to know how this will work. I thought it was black in space. How will tomatoes seeds develop without sunlight. This is interesting and I'd also like updates. Let's hope they don't grow into monsters like we see on movies and come back to haunt us. I also love my home made maters..sandwiches.

  • the alliance Jul 13, 2007

    Thats weird.

  • wolfmandan Jul 13, 2007

    Luke..No NASA use the Force!!!..lol..Hope it turns out well!!..Ain't nutin' like a good ole mater sandwich!

  • erggggg Jul 13, 2007

    this sounds really cool. i hope they keep us posted.

  • djofraleigh Jul 13, 2007

    I'm imagining perfectly round potatoes and tomatoes,
    and another thing, can plants be breed to withstand being in a vacuum? If so, maybe space stations could be grown in 24 hour daylight of space, and protect the craft within it.

  • All child molesters should die Jul 12, 2007

    I AM an "out of this world experiment!" Everyone who knows me, would concur! LOL!!!!

    But regarding the article, it does sound like a neat experiment.

  • Michael Kenyon Jul 12, 2007

    Cool! NCSU can grow food in outer space.

    Can UNC do, um, whatever it is that they do over there, in outer space?