Status Report

Advanced Astroculture (ADVASC) Results

By SpaceRef Editor
August 7, 2002
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By mid-July
2002, the soybeans growing inside the ADVASC growth chambers were thriving
plants and ready to flower. The plants have been growing faster than expected.
The ground-based science team have requested that Flight Engineer Peggy
Whitson photograph the flowering plants on Wednesday, July 24. They will
use the photographs to determine, based on the plants’ maturation, whether
the nutrient supply should be reduced at this point. The nutrient supply
would then be returned to normal once the plants begin to seed.

has already successfully grown two generations of Arabidopsis thaliana,
a non-food-crop member of the Brassica family. The Increment 4 plants
were grown using seeds harvested during Increment 2 operations. Samples
taken during both missions were used for ground-based experiments: "Additionally,
we are going to sample the plant tissue and preserve it for RNA and DNA
analysis after returning to the ground. Hopefully it will provide important
information regarding the impact of low gravity on the plant gene expression,"
Dr. Weijia Zhou, principal investigator for ADVASC and director of the
Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics (WCSAR) at the University
of Wisconsin, Madison.

90 percent of the seeds sent into space during Increment 2 germinated.
Of those, about 70 percent grew siliques (elongated, two-sided seed capsules
characteristic of the mustard family), with an average of 24 siliques
containing 36 seeds per plant. WCSAR researchers compared the space-grown
plants to a control group grown under similar conditions on the ground.
Part of the analysis also includes determining cell wall and chemical
composition. Differences between the ADVASC plants and the ground-control
plants will likely be due to the microgravity environment. Many of the
seeds were turned over to Space Explorers, Inc., for use in their educational
kits and other commercial endeavors.


Long-term plant research may allow crews on long-duration
space flights to successfully grow and nourish their own crops. Plants
also provide a natural air and water filtration system. From the humble
beginnings represented by ADVASC may come advanced, large-scale plant
growth systems for spacecraft. Space horticulture is the cornerstone of
a healthy, enclosed life support system for future human space exploration.
Furthermore, plant growth systems provide a little piece of Earth that
helps make the spacecraft environment feel more like home.

the key to growing crops in space – a challenging
growing environment—may also improve crop yields on Earth by helping scientists
to genetically tailor plants that will withstand disease and inhospitable
conditions, and will require less growing space. This feature of space-grown
plants has attracted the latest partner to the ADVASC project, Pioneer
Hi-Bred International, Inc., a leading developer of seeds used around
the world. Pioneer’s research have produced seeds with unique traits,
such as improved disease and pest resistance, and oil
content, and better oil quality. They have turned to the Station research
platform to further improve their products.

of the ADVASC system have yielded some surprising benefits. Homeland defense
has been on the minds of many Americans since September 11, but few would
have expected that a safety device would come from a plant growth chamber
orbiting Earth. Ethylene is a natural byproduct of growing plants, but
too much of this gas can build up in a growth chamber, causing plants
to mature before they have had a chance to properly produce fruit and
seeds. Researchers at WCSAR invented Bio-KES, a device that uses ultraviolet
lights to convert ethylene into carbon dioxide and water, to remove ethylene
from growth chambers like ADVASC. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin
discovered by increasing the intensity of the ultraviolet lighting, they
could use Bio-KES technology to kill pathogens like anthrax. The air scrubber,
named AiroCide TiO2, is now being manufactured by KES Science & Technology,
Inc., of Kennesaw, GA. For more on this space research spin-off, please
visit the NASA
News Release

have also found that the light used for photosynthesis in ADVASC heals
wounds and improves the effectiveness of cancer-fighting drugs. 
The light-emitting diodes (LEDs) developed for WCSAR by Quantum Devices,
Inc., have been successfully used in surgical devices that remove tumors.
Cooler thEmcg laser, these LEDs can target diseased tissue without harming
the surrounding healthy tissue.

ADVASC has providednvaactive link between science conducted onboard the
Station and the education community.  Space Explorers, Inc., a commercial
partner on the ADVASC experiment during Increments 2 and 4, has developed
Orbital Laboratory, an
Internet-based, multimedia educational tool that allows students (grades
K-12) to conduct their own ground-based plant experiments and to analyze
data returned from the ADVASC units. Space
Explorers, Inc., and InnerLink, Inc., developed the Orbital Laboratory
Payload Innerlinkit,
a commercially available kit that contained supplies necessary to participate
in the ADVASC experiment and a one-year subscription to the Orbital Laboratory
Web site.


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    Web Sites

  • Current
    Space Flight Missions

  • ISS
    Increment 2, 6A to 7A

  • NASA
    Life Sciences Research Highlights: Researchers achieve breakthrough by
    growing plants from seed-to-seed in space
    (Spaceline; PDF file)

    reaps first crop of seeds from International Space Station
    of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering)

  • Space
    Product Development Source Book: Product Lines
    (see WCSAR at bottom)

  • ISS
    Plant Experiment Feeds Young Minds and Industry

  • Gardening
    in Space May Bring Us Another Step Closer to Understanding Plant Life

    (NASA Space Product Development)

  • SpaceRef staff editor.