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

es, are partners on the experiment.

"This is the first in a series of Space Station plant experiments that will study the role of gravity in producing lignin, a substance that affects the strength of plant stalks and stems," said Louis Stodieck, director of BioServe Space Technologies. "Identifying the genes that control lignin production in plants has broad applications in the timber and pharmaceutical industries."

Plants need lignin for strength to stand upright under the force of Earth's gravity. But this chemical must be removed to produce paper -- a costly process that results in pollution. Reducing the lignin content of plants could make it less expensive to produce paper and reduce pollution.

Another significant benefit of growing plants in space is the educational benefit. Space Explorers, Inc., a commercial firm in Green Bay, Wis., produces Internet-based, space education programs. The company used data from the ADVANCED ASTROCULTURE experiments to create the "Orbital Laboratory" educational software program. It allows students to design, conduct and analyze plant experiments on the Space Station.

Then they can compare data through an online student experiment database. After the experiment is finished on the Space Station, students can use actual data from the experiment to recreate the experiment in a virtual environment.

During Expedition Five, students from California to New York grew soybeans and dwarf wheat plants, similar to those already grown on the Station, under nine different growing conditions. Via the Internet, they shared their results and how those results might affect plants grown on long-term space missions.

This and other Space Product Development experiments are sponsored by the Office of Biological and Physical Research at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.


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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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