Press Release

Space Product Development: Space Beans

By SpaceRef Editor
December 24, 2002
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Dr. Weijia Zhou, director of the Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics (WCSAR), participated in live television interviews last week, which covered 9 states and 11 stations around the country.

During the interviews, Dr. Zhou, explained how new and improved varieties of crops can be produced by allowing the plants to grow within the unique low-gravity environment of space. “We will analyze the oils, proteins and carbohydrates to see if these plants have a higher nutritional value or any other noticeable differences from their earth-grown relatives,” said Zhou. “If desirable traits are found, then the next step is to see if these traits can be genetically inherited to future generations of plants.”

Over the next few months, scientists from Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.– a Dupont subsidiary that produces more than 100 varieties of soybean seeds–will examine the seeds produced by the space-grown plants to see if they do indeed exhibit any unique, desirable traits.

WCSAR is one of 15 Commercial Space Centers that is managed by the Space Product Development Program in Huntsville, Alabama. The program provides industry with access to space and encourages them to conduct their own research in hopes of creating new products or improving existing products on Earth.

These experiments and others are paving the way for improving crops grown on Earth, as well as producing crops that can support long-term human presence in space.

Jimmy Grisham, Space Product Development Market Manager, also took to the airwaves last week by conducting radio interviews about the space beans. By reaching 5 stations and 8 state/regional networks, it is estimated that he reached a potential audience of 6.9 million listeners on 402 potential stations.

On December 30, Mark Nall, Space Product Development (SPD) Manager, will be featured on a 30-minute talk show on the Kansas Radio Network. He will be speaking about the soybean experiment as well as other SPD products.

SpaceRef staff editor.