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Dolores Beasley
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1753)

Tracy Young
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
(Phone: 321/867-2468)
January 9, 2004
RELEASE : 04-018
NASA Research Enhances Benefits Of Plant Experiments
NASA-funded scientists are researching methods to address current issues and future needs for efficiently growing plants on Mars.

The research is being conducted in the specialized low-pressure and Mars-simulation chambers at the new state-of-the-art Space Life Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla.

The research data, featured on the cover of the January 2004 issue of the scientific journal Plant Physiology, focuses on using reduced pressure environments to increase the scientific and engineering benefits of plant growth experiments. The data indicates, with the currently available materials on Mars, a greenhouse structure could only be constructed if the internal pressure of the greenhouse was maintained below approximately one-sixteenth of Earth's atmospheric pressure.

"Since extraterrestrial colonies and space vehicles may well employ reduced atmospheric pressures to lower the time and engineering costs of missions, we now have the beginnings of an understanding of how those atmospheres will impact our long-term life support system," said Robert Ferl, director, Space Agriculture Biotechnology Research and Education, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Ferl is principal investigator for the project and author of the featured paper "Hypobaric Biology. Arabidopsis Gene Expression at Low Atmospheric Pressure." Research team members and co-authors include Anna-Lisa Paul and Mick Popp, University of Florida; and Andrew Schuerger, Dynamac Corp., KSC. For more information on space research, visit:


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