NC State researchers see plant experiments blast off to ISS

Local News

(Provided to CBS 17)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – To watch your life’s work launch into orbit and knowing it can change the future of space travel is nothing less than thrilling.

“It was incredible because you’re seeing something come up into the sky and you know your experiment is there, so it was really really fun,” said Prof. Marcela Rojas-Pierce, a Plant and Microbial Biologist at N.C. State University.

A photograph shows the joy after delivering the teams plant experiments to SpaceX-22 at the Kennedy Space Center.

“The main goal and the urgent goal right now is to be able to really produce plants and to produce food for astronauts if they go on long-term missions,” said Rojas-Pierce, who leads the team alongside Imara Perera.

There have been plant experiments in space before but this time the results will help scientists and NASA further understand how microgravity affects the cellular processes of plants and how they respond to more extreme environments.

“We had to prepare protocols so that the same experiment can be done by astronauts safely in the space station,” said Rojas-Pierce.

Other than adding a few solutions to the plants, there won’t be much more for the astronauts to do.

Rojas-Pierce and her team won’t know the results until the plants come back to earth five weeks later.

Rojas-Pierce explained, “we want to be able to grow plants efficiently when you don’t have the nice environment that we have here on earth.”

She said it may also help us figure out how to better grow plants right here on our own planet and its rapidly changing climate.

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