For release: 08-01-02 (for week ending 08-01-02)
Science Ops status report #: 02-194
Soybean plants thriving aboard Space Station
Soybean plants growing in the Advanced Astroculture experiment aboard the International Space Station have entered the reproductive stage, developing flowers and seed pods. Space Station science experiments and payload operations are managed by the Payload Operations Center at Marshall Center.
Photo: Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson and soybean plants (NASA/JSC)
Soybean plants growing in the Advanced Astroculture (ADVASC) Plant Growth Unit have entered the reproductive stage. High-resolution photos taken by Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson on board the International Space Station show the plants have developed flowers and seed pods.
The chamber environment has been set to the optimal conditions for the seed development. The crew on Tuesday conducted a third nutrient exchange and gas sample procedure.
For this experiment, the Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics (WSCAR) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Commercial Space Center managed by the Space Product Development Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is collaborating with Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., a Dupont Company, to grow soybeans in space and determine if these space-grown plants produce seeds with unique chemical compositions. Soybeans are the largest single source of protein and oil in the American diet, representing a multi-billion-dollar market share in the food and animal feed industries. This research may result in soybeans with improved oil, protein, or carbohydrate content, as well as the secondary metabolites, such as phytoestrogen, of commercial value. This is the first soybean plant growth experiment that has ever been conducted in space. It will demonstrate that
the controlled environment technologies developed for the ADVASC experiment can support the production of a variety of crop plants in space.
“The experiment is doing very well,” said Dr. Weijia Zhou, director of the Wisconsin center and ADVASC principal investigator. “It has entered a critical stage - seed production. Successful completion of this stage will provide significant science return.”
The Active Rack Isolation System (ARIS) vibration dampening system was tested for eight minutes Monday during crew exercise. The data will be used to compare the rack acceleration environment with restraints in place to the environment when the dampening device is free to move but placed in ‘hold’ mode. In ‘hold,’ ARIS is keeping the rack centered in its space in the lab but is not damping out vibrations. Beginning Wednesday, the Payload Operations Center began a series of tests with ARIS to gain more operating experience. ARIS, located in EXPRESS Rack 2, is designed to counter vibrations caused by crew movement, operating equipment, etc. that could disturb delicate microgravity experiments.
The Solidification Using Baffle in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA) experiment team, which has been troubleshooting commanding issues, transmitted new software to the experiment Wednesday designed to verify a change in the temperature at which the furnace melts and crystallizes the semiconductor material inside. Following Wednesday’s checkouts by controllers and the science team, including a full non-sample test run, Whitson today installed a sample for processing, the third processing run so far of the mission. SUBSA is investigating the distribution of impurities in a semiconductor crystal during processing. The goal is to identify what causes the motion in melts processed inside space laboratories and to reduce the magnitude of the melt motion so that it does not interfere with semiconductor production. These impurities, or dopants, are used to control the opto-electronic
properties of the crystals, and uniform distribution of the dopant is essential to achieve the desired opto-electronic properties.
Completed Expedition Five experiments include the Stelsys liver cell tissue growth experiment, the Microencapsulation Electrostatic Processing (MEPS) experiment to develop drug-filled microcapsules for study, the Educational Payload Operation – a demonstration of basic physics principles using simple toys with the results being videoed for production into an educational film. The other experiments under way in the Destiny lab module continue to function normally.
Crew Earth Observations photography subjects this week included: fires in northern Namibia, southern Angola and Zambia, , the Nyamuragira volcano near the eastern border of Congo, which erupted July 26, spewing lava, steam, ash and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, and agriculture patterns in the Parana River valley of northern Argentina and southern Brazil.
Editor’s Note: The Payload Operations Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages all science research experiment operations aboard the International Space Station. The center is also home for coordination of the mission-planning work of a variety of international sources, all science payload deliveries and retrieval, and payload training and payload safety programs for the Station crew and all ground personnel.
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