How the experience of two North Carolina state professors could help understand plant growth in space

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) – When SpaceX 22 NASA-contracted cargo refueling mission to the International Space Station took off at 1:29 p.m. Thursday, with at least two North Carolina state professors watching the launch excitedly.

” We have worked on this project for about two years now, so we have practiced each step 1000 times, ”explained the teacher. Marcela Rojas-Pierce, with the ministry of Plant and microbial biology at NCSU.

“We had to develop protocols to make sure what we were doing would work. So in terms of experience, we actually start with seeds and they are actually grown on plates. After the seeds germinate in the space station, the astronauts will use a specific tool to inject two solutions, ”Rojas-Pierce explained.

Rojas-Pierce worked with a colleague professor Imara Perera about the project. Their work will help researchers understand how plants respond to extreme environments and how microgravity affects a plant’s cellular processes.

Together, the duo are testing the impact of microgravity in the ISS on the fusion of “cell organelles” or small compartments within the cell, according to Rojas-Pierce.

“We’re looking at the cell structure using microscopy, and more importantly I think we’re doing a cell biology test where we have a set of cells – these real plants – we apply these inhibitors and look at a dynamic process. like the fusion of the back heel, which nobody has done before, ”she added.

the research can help better understand how to prepare for future long-term missions to the Moon and Mars.

“NASA wants to make sure there is a food supply for astronauts when they have long-term missions,” Rojas-Pierce said.

In addition to science, researchers also find another benefit to growing plants in space.

“The studies find that they especially love growing plants because you know, we all love gardening and growing plants is quite relaxing,” Rojas-Pierce said. “So that’s actually another reason NASA is still interested in promoting experiments with plants for the mental health of astronauts.”

The plants are expected to return to earth approximately four to five weeks after launch and will be returned to NCSU labs to determine how microgravity affected their cell structure.

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