Status Report

Advanced Astroculture CG-02 (ADVASC): Results

By SpaceRef Editor
February 25, 2002
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was activated on February 12, 2002. The growth chamber contains Arabadopsis
seeds produced during ADVASC’s first flight (ADVASC-GC-01). "This will
be second-generation Arabadopsis plants produced from the seeds produced
by those first-generation space-grown plants," described 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. "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."

activated on May 10, 2001, was the first experiment on Station to return
data to ground centers via video. By the week of May 28, the seeds had
sprouted. The research team reported that the seedlings appeared on the
video to be slightly larger than expected. The plants began to flower
during the week of June 11 and had produced seeds within two weeks. During
the first week of July, Increment 2 Flight Engineer Jim Voss had raised
the heat and removed nutrients, fluids, and gases from ADVASC unit in
order to dry out the plants and preserve them for their return to Earth.

unit, plants, and samples were returned to Earth by STS-104 on July 24,
and sent to WCSAR. Approximately 90 percent of the seeds sent into space
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 are also
comparing 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.
The overall health and vigor of the space-grown plants will tell researchers
whether the growing conditions—temperature, moisture, and fertilizer concentrations—were
optimal. Some of the seeds are currently being grown in ADVASC-GC-02,
but most of the seeds were turned over to Space Explorers, Inc., for use
in their educational kits and other commercial endeavors.

two other space-based plant-growth experiments have yielded a whole life
cycle.  An earlier, long-duration experiment on Mir using
wheat yielded a complete life cycle, but produced only empty seed heads
(due to a significantly elevated ambient ethylene concentration). The
brassica rapa plant experiment successfully produced multigeneration
seeds on Mir.


Long-term plant research may allow crews on long-duration
space flights to successfully grow and nourish their own crops in space.
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.

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 developed for WCSAR by Quantum Devices, Inc.,
have been successfully used in surgical devices that remove tumors.

ADVASC provides an active link between science conducted onboard the ISS
and the education community.  Space Explorers, Inc., commercial partner
on the ADVASC experiment, has developed Orbital
, an Internet-based, multimedia educational tool that allows
students (grades K-12) to conduct experiments on the ISS and to analyze
returned data.  Students will be able to access ADVASC plant
data and discuss data gathered by other participating schools worldwide.
Space Explorers, Inc., and InnerLink, Inc., have developed the Orbital
Laboratory Payload 002 Innerlinkit,
a commercially available kit that contains supplies necessary to participate
in the ADVASC experiment and a one-year subscription to the Orbital Laboratory
Web site.

Related Publications

D.M. Porterfield, D.J. Barta, D.W. Ming, R.C. Morrow, and M.E. Musgrave. 2000.
ASTROCULTURE (TM) root metabolism and cytochemical analysis. Adv Space Res. 26(2): 315-318. 

R.J. Bula and W. Zhou . 2000. First flight of the ASTROCULTURE (TM) experiment as a part of the U.S. Shuttle/MIR program. Adv Space Res. 26(2): 247-252.

Web Sites

Current Space Flight Missions (WCSAR)
ISS Increment 2, 6A to 7A (WCSAR)
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)

SpaceRef staff editor.