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Space Shuttle returns first soybeans grown on Space Station in commercial farming experiment

ters located across America.

"The Space Station is giving companies a chance to grow plants that require several months to mature," said Nall.

NASA International Space Station Science Officer Peggy Whitson took care of the soybeans on the Station since the experiment began in June. In one of her e-mail letters to family and friends this summer, she reported, "The beans looked mature and the leaves are turning brown."

The plants and seed pods were turning brown because scientists wanted them to dry out and be preserved for tests on Earth.

It turned out to be a very good crop.

"The first soybean crop grown in space returned in excellent condition, and a total of 83 seeds were harvested from 42 seed pods," said Dr. Weijia Zhou, director of the Wisconsin Space Center for Automation and Robotics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Since a plant's habitat plays a key role in determining the physiological and biological characteristics of the plant, we believe that reduced gravity may affect plant chemistry."

The Wisconsin center is a NASA Commercial Space Center, and was responsible for building the ADVANCED ASTROCULTURE plant growth chamber where the soybeans germinated and grew for 97 days.

"We will analyze the oil, proteins, carbohydrates and secondary metabolites in the seeds produced in space," noted Corbin, whose company is the largest seed company in the world. "We will continue analysis of the soybeans at Pioneer's laboratory in Johnston, Iowa, and we anticipate having results in two to three months."

NASA is interested in the technologies that enable production of commercially important crops like soybeans in space because these technologies will be needed to produce vegetable crops that support a long-term human presence in space.

Can new varieties of crops be produced using seeds produced by space-grown plants? Do these space plants produce seeds with higher oil content or improve
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Contact: Steve Roy
steve.roy@msfc.nasa.gov
256-544-0034
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center
1-Nov-2002


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