NASA and Purdue University partner to launch plant spores into space on Monday

NASA and Purdue are launching plants into space on Monday, April 14, in hopes of learning how plants can grow food in space. 

Posted on April 13, 2014 at 4:12 p.m.

A Purdue University experiment will go literally out of this world on Monday, April 14, in hopes of learning more about how plants and food can be grown in space.

The experiment is a free-flying spacecraft called SporeSat, which will look into how different levels of gravity affect calcium signaling in the fern Ceratopteris richardii, Purdue University reported. Calcium signaling dictates in which directions plants grow roots and sprouts. It's guided by gravity.

The goal is to see how much - or how little - gravity is needed to be able to grow plants and food in space.

"Being able to grow plants for food in microgravity and space environments is crucial if we're going to reach this amazing future of long-term space exploration that we all imagine," said Jenna Rickus, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue. "We tend to think of propulsion and spacecraft technology as the main challenges to space exploration, but the true challenge is really the biology."

SporeSat will be deployed via the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on the Falcon 9 rocket on Monday afternoon, April 14, from Cape Canaveral, Fla. It will satellite the Earth between 200 and 250 miles above it.

Purdue's agricultural and biological engineering program developed and partially funded SporeSat through a partnership with NASA's Ames Research Center.

Read more details about how the study will be conducted at Purdue's website.

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