Raleigh, N.C. — A group of researchers at North Carolina State University are preparing to send an experiment into orbit on NASA's very last space shuttle mission.
Dr. Imara Perera, a research assistant professor of plant biology, is the lead researcher on the plant biology experiment that is being launched with Atlantis on July 8.
The experiment is aimed at seeing how plants sense and respond to the space environment and microgravity.
"The long-term implications of this work will be to improve plant growth under unfavorable conditions that may exist both here on earth and in space," Perera said.
The goal is to find a way for future astronauts to be able to grow their own food and plants for oxygen in space.
Now that they've arranged a lift for their experiment into space, one big challenge remains: how to get it back to N.C. State.
Because the Atlantis launch marks the very last shuttle mission, Perera says she doesn't know who will actually be able to bring it back from the International Space Station.
NASA is ending the 30-year-old space shuttle program to focus on creating a new fleet of spacecraft that can go to Mars.
Atlantis is scheduled to liftoff for its 12-day mission at 11:26:46 a.m. July 8 from Kennedy Space Center with four crew members aboard.